Indigenous ecological knowledge (IEK) on the utilization and conservation of coastal resources in Siquijor Island, central Philippines

ABSTRACT Fishers’ indigenous ecological knowledge on the utilization of marine and coastal resources in San Juan, Siquijor is assessed and described. Local fishers, especially those accustomed in using the traditional gears, have developed skills to
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  Eco. Env. & Cons. 22 (3) : 2016; pp. (111-118)Copyright@ EM InternationalISSN 0971–765X  Article-14 Corresponding author’s email :; Indigenous ecological knowledge (IEK) on theutilization and conservation of coastal resources insiquijor Island, central Philippines Billy T. Wagey 1 and Abner A. Bucol 2 1 Faculty of Fisheries and Marine Science Sam Ratulangi University, Manado Indonesia  2  Dumaguete City, Philippines  (Received 9 February, 2016; accepted 10 May, 2016) ABSTRACT Fishers’ indigenous ecological knowledge on the utilization of marine and coastal resources in San Juan,Siquijor is assessed and described. Local fishers, especially those accustomed in using the traditional gears,have developed skills to harmoniously utilize coastal resources amidst hardships such as during extremeweather conditions. The potentially sustainable fishing and gleaning practices are briefly annotated.Indigenous ecological knowledge has been successfully passed on to several generations of fishers untilrecently when fishing, as an occupation, becomes obsolete and most gears have been modified.  Key words : Coastal, Fishing, Indigenous, Knowledge, Traditional, Monsoon Introduction The Philippines is well-known for its rich marine biodiversity in the Coral Triangle region along withadjacent countries Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua NewGuinea, Timor Leste, and Solomon Islands (Carpen-ter and Springer, 2005; Allen 2008; Sanciangco et al., 2013; Veron et al.,  2009). However, the Philippinemarine environment has been subjected to anthro-pogenic threats, especially coral reefs, leading todegradation (White et al.,  2000). One such activityinclude the use of noxious substances to stun fishsuch as chlorine and the use of trammel nets, whichoften destroy corals. The late R. E. Johannes and hiscollaborators (e.g. Johannes 1981, 1998; Johannes etal.,  1993, 2000) emphasized the role of fisher ecologi-cal knowledge in fishery management, using ex-amples mainly from Pacific islands. In biodiversity-rich yet heavily fished regions such as the Philip-pine, studies on fishers’ ecological knowledge re-main scant and focused mostly on anthropologicalaspects (e.g. Russell and Alexander 1996; Abernethy et al.,  2007). In Johannes’ words, “when anthropolo-gists study man-in nature, the general form of que-ries is usually “how does this environment influenceyou?” rather than “what can we learn about this en-vironment from you?” (Johannes 1981, p.ix).Fishers’ knowledge research has a relatively longhistory yet generally failed to become integrated intothe mainstream fisheries science and may poten-tially die out if left marginalized (Hind, 2014). It isthe goal of this paper to convey important aspects of fishers’ ecological knowledge so that conservationprograms (fishery and coastal management) willeventually benefit. Like most of what Hind (2014)called “third-wave” papers, we will describe fishers’knowledge in a more qualitative and experientialform. Also, this paper is hoped to catalyze further  112 Eco. Env. & Cons. 22 (3) : 2016 studies on traditional fishing and gleaning practices,at least in Siquijor Island. The study area The study was conducted in the northwestern partof Siquijor Island (Fig. 1) covering the barangays of Tambisan (9° 11 '  10.16 '' N, 123°27 ' 14.01 '' E), munici-pality of San Juan to the north of Cang-alwang (9°13 '  32.13 '' N, 123°27 ' 55.81 '' E), municipality of Siquijor.The overall shallow marine ecosystem (below 30mdeep) has an estimated area of 1,035 ha, which com-prised of 175 ha of coral reef (slope and crest com- bined), 636 ha of seagrass beds, and about 120 ha of  Caulerpa  (lato) communities mixed with seagrasses.The back-reef system in the study area begins imme-diately behind the reef crest, with specific habitats(specific local terms are available which allows iden-tification of zones possible) in the following order(landward direction): 1) sand-rubble dominatedzone (locally called lowas ); 2) offshore algal bed(  pasil ); 3) seagrass bed ( lomlom ), which is mainlycomposed of Thalassia hemprichii  and Cymodocearotundata , and Syringodium isoetifolium ; 4) lagoon(  giling ) with patches of coral bombies, sand, andEnhalus beds being the deepest (3-5m) among the back-reef habitats; 5) shallow/inshore seagrass-algal bed ( sugoton ); and 6) fossil reef terrace (  pang-pang ). Methodology Most of the observations presented in this paperwere obtained mainly by the second author being anative Siquijodnon and an experienced local fisher-man. The first author was the first to suggest to himthat a vast local ecological knowledge can be writtenas to how local fishers interact with their environ-ment. Both discussed the plan to write a qualitativeaccount of local fishers’ knowledge while B. Wageywas a PhD Marine Biology student at Silliman Uni-versity ~2010, with specialization on seagrass biol-ogy. To supplement the second author’s own obser-vations, he also conducted several informal inter-views with local fishers, majority are his relatives inSan Juan, Siquijor. Fig. 1.  Location of the study area on the northwestern coast of Siquijor.  WAGEY   AND BUCOL113 Results and Discussion We enumerate below the localized indigenous eco-logical knowledge (IEK), including weather predic-tions and certain traditional practices that can berelated to sustainable management of coastal re-sources. Indigenous weather forecasting As observed by one of us (A. Bucol), who is a nativeSiquijodnon and a fisherman since childhood until~2007, the locals in San Juan, Siquijor has developedindigenous ways of predicting weather patterns,accurate to within the next 2-3 days. For example,the enhanced northward current ( talab-on ) that bends the blades of the eelgrass Enhalus acoroides indicates an upcoming typhoon within the next 2-3days. This observed phenomenon might be similarto the interaction between typhoon (especially dur-ing and after the passage of a typhoon) and tidalcurrent as described by Lin et al.,  (2015). Such pat-tern has been utilized by the fishers’ ancient ances-tors, long before the availability of transistor radiosand televisions, which even in recent decades thePhilippine weather bureau usually failed to accu-rately predict possible trajectory of typhoons andother weather disturbances. On a side note, the fruitof E. acoroides  had been considered alternative food,especially during localized famines in the remotepast, according to local fishers.Another indicator used by old folks, especially inthe western side of the island, is the presence or ab-sence of fogs in the neighbouring Negros Island inearly morning, during sunrise. A clear, fog-less im-age of Cuernos de Negros massif usually indicatesan upcoming typhoon in the next few days. This isunderstandably so because typhoons approachingthe Philippines develops from the Pacific andtraverses through the eastern seaboard (Wu et al.2005) and due to their cyclonic counterclockwiserotation in the northern hemisphere due to CoriolisEffect, results to a temporary northwestern winddirection (locally termed kanaway ). As the typhoonapproaches the vicinity of central Visayan islands,especially if located northward, the northwesternwind is replaced by a southwestern wind direction( habagat ).The strength and duration of habagat, regardlessof whether or not a typhoon influenced it, is deter-mined by the cloud features. Habagat is expected togain strength if the clouds would appear dark (rain bearing, nimbus type), at low altitude, and movesrelatively faster.Elderly fishers would then alert other fishers thata typhoon or a strong habagat (southwest monsoon)is approaching. Fishers would either retrieve fishtraps or add bamboo pegs to ensure that the trapswill not be dislocated by the strong waves. Seasonal indicators Traditionally, old fishers used certain plant speciesto determine the onset of seasons. The onset of typi-cal dry season is determined by the overall rednessand senescence of the leaves of talisay ( Terminaliacatappa ). Indigenous positioning skills (Fig. 2) The Siquijodnon fishers are also expert in locatingtraps and fishing grounds without any help of GPS(global positioning device) though triangulation,locally called hinilongdon  or tolongdon . This tech-nique is accurate to ~0.5m in shallow waters(seagrass and lagoon) to ~5m in deeper waters (reef slope), depending on the skills and number of fea-tures used. One has to find his own distinct land-marks (tip of a hill against an emergent tree for ex-ample) and should memorize these features untilthey retrieve traps the following day or in cases of larger traps, the following week. This local tech-nique, however, cannot be used fully during nighttime although, recently, lights from a local wharf and street lights have been utilized as well. The useof visual triangulation by local fishers has been used by other fishers elsewhere, probably using the sameprinciple as reported in the 1960s by Forman (1967).Local fishers need to be familiar with his fishingground that even specific fishing grounds are Fig. 2. Local fishers’ way of locating traps and fish-ing spots through triangulation method( hinilongdon ).  114 Eco. Env. & Cons. 22 (3) : 2016 named locally according to zones and distinct land-marks (prominent tree along the beach forest orcliff). Traditional fishing and gleaning practices In this paper, the focus will be on the positive sidesof traditional fishing practices by the local fishers. Aseparate paper by the second author deals with thediminishing sustainable fishing practise which wasmainly due to introduction of modernized yetunmanaged fishing practices (use of chlorine as fishpoison, use of trammel nets, etc). Fish pots (Fig. 3) To our knowledge, fish pots appear to be the mostsustainable fishing gears used by the locals. Themain reason is that fish pots require very little in-vestment (costs as low at 50 pesos each) comparedto other gears such as gillnets and fish corrals. Inaddition, baits are locally available such as the greenalga ( Enteromorpha intestinales ) to catch rabbitfish( Siganus  spp), hermit crabs and sea urchins to catchwrasses (Labridae), the brown alga Sargassum polycystum  to catch the parrotfish Leptoscarusvaigiensis , and in some instances the fish pots aresimply left submerged near seagrass and algal bedsfor two weeks to catch parrotfishes (Scaridae),mainly Calotomus spinidens  and juveniles of Scarus psittacus .The location of the fish pots is determined harmo-niously by the fishers on a first come first serve ba-sis to avoid conflict. When a fisher spotted anotherfisher’s fish pot that has already accumulated fish,he covers the entrance of the trap with a fist-sizedstone and never retrieves it. This way, local fishersmaintain trust among themselves.The role of the lagoon (with depth ranging from3-5 meters) in Tambisan is well-known among fish-ers for this type of fishery during the southwestmonsoon. Because of the need to fish during south-west monsoon, the local fishers usually avoid fishingthe lagoon during calm months (December throughMay). The lagoon, which is located behind the semi- barrier type of reef, is left to be fished during badweather conditions as this is the only part of the seathat can be accessed but only during the lowest tideof the day (~1-2 hours). Fish pots are also less af-fected by strong waves in the lagoon, granting thatthe pot is anchored by two bamboo pegs to naildown the trap on sandy-muddy substrate. Gleaning of edible macroinvertebrates (Figs. 4-5) Interestingly, gleaning for edible macroinvertebrates(conch snails, Family Strombidae and sea urchins Tripneustes gratilla  and Diadema setosum ) using skindiving with wooden goggles (  pang-antipara ) in theextensive seagrass and algal beds still persists andappears sustainable. Most local gleaners claim that Fig. 3. Small circular fish pots used to capture parrotfishspecies (A) and siganids (B). Photo by A. Bucol Fig. 4. Mixed-species of conch (Strombidae) gathered bylocal gleaners of Lapac, Tambisan, San Juan,Siquijor Photo by A. Bucol  WAGEY   AND BUCOL115prior to the use of wooden goggles in the 1930s-40s,strombid snails ( Lambis  and Strombus  species) can beharvested by hand without the use of goggles inshallow (<1m) seagrass-rubble areas up to 20-30 kgin less than an hour. These days, however, strombidspecies are becoming rare in seagrass beds, probably because they can be easily seen by gleaners. In thealgal beds right behind the immediate back-reef,however, where seasonal booms of algae ( Sargas-sum , Ulva , and Padina  species) occur, detectability of most exploited molluscs can be reduced. This wouldallow targeted species like Lambis lambis  to grow andsubsequently reproduce. Local gleaners usuallyavoid the algal beds until most macroalgae are re-moved during the onset of habagat  (southwest mon-soon). The locals reported as much as 30 kg per trip(1-2 hours) of gleaning during the first few days of habagat. Moreover, most of the Lambis  species arelarger and heavier (thicker shells) are sold fresh(alive and with shells) to local markets at 40-50 pe-sos per kilo.Another targeted edible macroinvertebrates aresalawaki ( Tripneustes gratilla ) and Diadema  and Echinothrix  species ( tuyom, ubanon ), which are har-vested on a daily basis as well. This is of interest tous because, supposedly, sea urchin’s   spawning ap-pears to coincide with lunar phases (usually aroundnew moon). According to local gleaners, they iden-tified sea urchins that have larger gonads aroundnew moon as those aggregate in seagrass-algal beds.It is of interest to note that the gleaners have devel-oped the timing to predict which localized popula-tions have enlarged gonads, since not all sea urchinsof each species have synchronized gonad maturity.Experienced gleaners are, most often, able to detectindividuals of T. gratilla  that have enlarged gonads by simply observing the over-all appearance. Thosethat have shorter spines, harder shells (heavier), bright-colored, and partly concealed themselvesamong seagrass blades and algae usually have en-larged gonads. Those that are fully exposed (someclimbing the eelgrass blades), long-spined, and paleare considered having almost empty or thin gonadsand therefore left aside to mature. While waiting forthe right lunar phase to harvest T. gratilla  onseagrass beds, gleaners search under ledges andcrevices for larger individuals. These individualsusually have enlarged gonads all the time, probably because these are older individuals. These are pre-sumably not about to spawn but since gonads arerelatively larger, gleaners can still accumulate roe toachieve his/her daily income. Other species of ur-chins (e.g. Echinothrix calamaris ) are also found hid-ing in deep crevices and under ledges of massivecoral bommies. Fresh urchin roe is sold at local mar-kets for as low as 40-50 pesos ( T. gratilla ) to 70 pesos( D. setosum  and E. calamaris ) per 375 mL bottle(Tanduay Rhum flat bottle).Octopus fishing is also amongst the ancient fish-ing practices in Siqujor. Though not as popular asother fishing gears, at least one fisher targets octo-pus daily. Like the fish pots and gleaning sea ur-chins, this type of fishing requires very small invest-ment. What a fisher needs is a small canoe withpaddle, a forked spear, and a bait which appears afist-sized spherical stone (~10 cm diameter) andwrapped with rags (unused cloth) cut into ~5cmstrips to mimic an octopus. This bait is towedslowly, paddling the canoe with one arm while theother arm holds the long line and the fisher has tolie down flat (with goggles on and face half-sub-merged by the water) as he watches the lure, alongthe contour of the sandy bottom (immediate backreef zone). Once an octopus follows the bait, thefisher then dives slowly and uses the spear( salapang ) to catch it. Given the shorter life span of octopus and since only adults are being caught bythis method, it appears that this type of gear seemssustainable. Harvesting sea grapes ( Caulerpa  species, lato ) Although we reported a substantial decline in thecatch-per-unit effort of Caulerpa  in Solong-on(Wagey and Bucol, 2014), it is still noteworthy to Fig. 5. The edible sea urchin Tripneustes gratilla (salawaki) in the seagrass bed. Photo by A. Bucol
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