Big fishers edging out small ones in Camiguin

NAASAG, Mambajao, Camiguin (MindaNews/07 January)—Pedro Alondres knew he could earn considerable money by selling pebbles from the shores of Sitio Baring here except that government has banned such practice.

Now 73, Alondres, who had been a fisher since he was 12 years old, thought of selling the pebbles because he could hardly fish anymore due to a heart ailment and he could think of no other alternative source of income.

“I’m too old to get a job. No one would hire me anymore,” he said, sounding nostalgic of the 40s to the 60s when he would work as laborer of a construction firm whenever he’s not at sea.

But even if he were physically fit to fish nowadays, Pedro said he may no longer do it as things have changed a lot now compared to the 40s until the 60s.

To be able to fish today, a fisher, he said, would need a capital of at least P300 capital, P160 for two kilos of bait (small fish) and P140 for three liters of fuel for the motorized boat. But more often, the required capital could go as high as P500 as a motorized banca (canoe) could consume five liters of fuel during lean periods where one would spend more time trying to get more catch.

A fisherman usually spends six hours at sea. But during lean periods he would spend a whole day fishing since he wouldn’t want to get back home with a meager catch which may not even be enough to gain back the amount spent on bait and fuel.

Pedro recalled that half a century ago they could already sight a school of fish from the shoreline. “Even if we were 100-percent sure of a good catch, we would not just go fishing because we had to ensure that the catch came to shore at a time when people would still buy them,” he said. He explained that if a school of fish was seen around noon time, it would be useless to catch them because people would no longer buy fish after lunch time, knowing very well that there would be more fresh catch the following morning.

“There was no ice before. Catching more than enough fish would send them rotting. Now that there is plenty of ice, there is no more enough fish to catch,” Pedro quipped.

A father of six, Pedro believed he’s lucky enough to have sent all his children to school, who now live in their respective houses that are all inside the compound that he and his wife bought in the 60s.

“I’m lucky my children are all professionals. They would tell me not to fish anymore. They are now feeding me,” he said while comparing himself to some other fishers his age who are still forced to suffer the cold breeze while fishing usually at nighttime if only to survive.

The island province of Camiguin has been noted as one of the major tourist destinations in Mindanao, but Pedro could not see or feel any good thing that the influx of local and foreign tourists has brought to his place.

“I could see many tourists coming but they don’t buy fish from the local fishers,” he said as he complained that the influx of tourists has, to some extent, even contributed to the hardships they are experiencing.

“There is bigger demand for fish by restaurants with the many tourists coming in. But as I have earlier said, fishers have lesser catch also because of the influx of big fishers. The fish traders here usually buy fish that are sold to the restaurants from Cagayan de Oro City. This trend has made the price of fish here even more expensive than those in the metropolis,” he said.

“The fish that the traders bought in Cagayan de Oro City were caught in the waters of Camiguin by big fishers with big boats and who can afford a P30,000 capital. They sell the fish to traders from the city who in turn sell the fish to traders from Camiguin. Traders from Camiguin are forced to buy fish from them because the catch, which are supposed to be ours, are already taken by big fishers,” he explained further. (Romy Elusfa/MindaNews contributor)