Simara--an island, a precious gift from ‘Above'. As it is, naturally surrounded by water--in our case, seawater. Inland, one scarce resource is, ironically, water--in this side, fresh water. At a glance, there is an obvious imbalance; yes, but this is what Nature allocated to us--Simaranhons. To ask ‘why?’ is childish curiosity; to search for the correct answer is like swimming against rough waves, if not an exercise in futility.
Curiously, let us pause and pose for photo shots. Viewing our sea from different angles will bring to the table a variety of pictures which can be classified in two: first, those pictures outside our (human beings) domain to change; second, those that are and can be subjected to refinement or redevelopment. The first type of pictures is a recurring view as the effects of natural events blended to our lives as common experiences. Obvious in our lens are the occurrence of high and low tides; the characteristic of the sea based on wind velocity: small waves, medium waves, big waves, and more. Whether we use our naked lens (bare eyes) or with the most sophisticated camera ever designed, Nature’s subject and background remain the same. Knowing this reality, common sense dictates that we proceed to look at the second type of pictures.
Let us see, our sea.
Simara Island is surrounded by gigantic aquarium that Nature showered upon us--Simaranhons. Nature’s nature--being perfect--this aquarium is full of different species of fish and other marine creatures; the water is clear and blue, and rich in natural nutrients; the habitat is amazingly architectured; the seaweeds and other plants are just right in everyway--in short, a flawless picture, so beautiful, so wonderful that ‘if eyes were made for seeing, then this beauty is one of its own excuses for being.'
As we continue, let us ask you --is this picture ideal or real? Is it fantasy or reality? Is our sea like this before? Our answers may differ, so let us see what our sea is today.
Stories from our grandparents and parents serve as perpetual testimonials as to the richness of our sea during their days. This holds true even during the childhood days of those of us who are now not-so-young anymore. Every fisherman equipped with crude fishing gears always went home with a bountiful catch. Nocturnal fish catchers (magug-panuyo) and shell gatherers (magug-panihi) were all smiles while maneuvering their way home because their homemade baskets/containers were always full. However, this abundance did not last long. The population of Simara continues to grow as years come and go; the sea is one immediate source of livelihood for Simaranhons. Is the population growth the cause of our depleting marine resources? No is a valid answer. If not, then what? The answer can be attributed to our lack of discipline, and knowledge about these marine creatures. A tangible example to this is our expression of joy whenever and wherever we find bountiful fish eggs locally called bihor. The palatable taste is what comes first to mind, instead of the millions potential fish to grow, and reproduce in their maturity. We cannot believe it ourselves at first, but the common practice here while fishing leisurely or not, is to throw back to the water the small ones and never to bring home fish eggs for food. This principle is applicable and must be practiced in Simara. The motivating factor is simple logic, abundance. Think about it--if we bring home all the fish eggs we found which even millions will be just good for one meal, then no eggs to hatch, no fingerlings to mature and lay eggs next time around--the result is depletion. On the bright side, if you decided in good faith to leave the fish eggs just where they were, time will come that they will mature as millions of fish. A simple analogy here is a hen that is laying eggs. If every time the hen lays an egg, you immediately take it for food, could you expect a chick to grow and replace the hen? We have to apply the same principle to our marine resources. Another point to emphasize is the lack of system pertaining to the use of our areas for shell gathering (panihian) and nocturnal fishing (panuyu-an). Moreover, the fact that while we enact laws to conserve, develop, and protect our marine resources, there are those of us who continue to engage in illegal fishing like the use of explosives, poisonous substances, and the like, which are devastating not only the habitat but also denying the small ones to reach maturity. Continued practice of these illegal means over the years coupled with inefficient implementation of the laws are the real culprit for our depleting marine resources.
Now comes the challenge. Can we bring back the abundance of our marine resources and enjoy the flawless picture of ‘Simara aquarium’ that Nature showered upon us? We have to say, yes. It takes optimism and sustained genuine efforts by all concerned to realize the objectives of this challenge. On our part, we have to put forward our views:
- We are glad to know that Fr. Virgil Fabriquel conceived and put into reality a School for Fishermen in Pidape. May this initial small group be the good seeds to grow and spread the beneficial fruits to the rest of our kasimanwa, who, directly or indirectly, use our marine resources for economic end and/or leisure.
- Education is instrumental not only on various techniques in fishing and marine culture but also in the understanding of the life of these marine creatures. We have to understand why there is what we call school of fish; we have to respect the sanctity of their spawning period; we have to recognize the indispensability of their habitat; we have to provide them opportunity to grow in peace until maturity; and, more. Just pause for a moment and focus on what we have been doing over the years to the detriment of our marine resources. Dynamite fishing spares no marine creature--fat or thin, big or small, edible or poisonous, spawning or not; destroys their habitat wantonly; and, endangers the life of the doer(s). Trawl fishing is, likewise, detrimental to our marine resources for it spares not the small and young ones, and damages their habitat. Panihi and panuyo done unceasingly as condition permits negate these marine creatures favorable environment to nourish themselves and flourish as the case must be. How many times a coral is touched in succession by so many hands in such occasion?
Faced with this grim reality, what shall we do?
Here are our suggestions:
- Implement to the letter existing laws pertaining to conservation, protection, development, and related activities concerning our marine resources;
- Enact additional laws in the form of Municipal ordinances re:
- Total ban of big commercial fishing companies within our Municipal waters;
- Regulating the use of our marine resources by implementing the following:
- Fish eggs (bihor) must not be taken away from the sea
- Fish spawning period must be observed and respected--that is, there must be no fishing activities during this period
- Fish caught prematurely must be thrown back to the sea
- Rest period must be provided to our marine resources through moratorium on any fishing and marine activity in this context for a certain period of years--maybe four years or more--by designating areas or zoning them as fish and other marine creatures sanctuary. Within this period, the designated areas will not be touched so the fish and other marine creatures will have the chance of their lives to grow undisturbed and reproduce to their fullest extent. Since fish and other marine resources are important to us, we have to introduce innovative approaches for positive results. The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) can assist our Municipal Government on selecting the sites, phase-by-phase on rotation basis, and also even in studying which species of fish and other marine creatures can adapt to our coastal waters; in this case, we can introduce the technique ‘fish and other marine life seeding’ all around Simara Island. A study is necessary so we can determine which species thrive within shallow waters or near coastal areas, and, at the same time, can blend in or co-exist with what we have right there, right now, since time immemorial;
- Artificial coral reefs must be introduced to augment the existing habitat of fish and other marine creatures.
These activities are not easy, but can be done. The Municipality of Looc has been doing the same for quite sometime. The sea is one of our important resources; it is incumbent on us--Simaranhons--to do everything positive for this resource.
If only our Municipal Government has available funds, we would not hesitate to suggest the following approaches to aid in the implementation of these activities, to wit:
- Formation of Simara Homeland Internal and External Lookout Duty (SHIELD)
- There should be a motorized boat that will conduct rounds of our Island on regular basis aptly called Simara Environment Auxiliary Protection Activities Tour ( SEAPAT). This can accomplish multi-functions as in the implementation of marine laws, homeland security, and in emergency cases, an ambulance on sea as Simara Emergency Response Vehicle Initializing Care Endeavor ( SERVICE ).
- There should be a group Inland headed by the Association of Barangay Captains for Activities Beneficial Communitywise (ABC for ABC), for Simara Inland Protection Activities Tour (SIPAT-In). In addition to looking after the safety and development of their respective barangays, the barangay leaders must assist in the implementation of marine laws, and keep the beaches and coastal waters clean. ‘Do not teach our trash to swim.’
We look forward to see that ‘Simara aquarium’ not as a fantasy, but a reality.