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Volunteer sea patrols make sacrifices to protect vital water surrounding the Philippines: 'The only chance for us to survive'

"Everybody has started understanding that we need to conserve and protect our marine environments."

"Everybody has started understanding that we need to conserve and protect our marine environments."

Photo Credit: iStock

Dedicated groups of volunteers known as the Bantay Dagat have taken on the mission of conserving the rich marine biodiversity surrounding the islands of the Philippines. 

According to the Guardian, Antonio "Toni" Yocor established local Bantay Dagat in 2005 in response to the problem of illegal and destructive fishing techniques that were depleting the area's natural resources — even in government-issued no-fishing zones known as marine protected areas (MPAs). 

MPAs were enacted in the 1970s to protect valuable coral reefs from damage, preserve the ecosystem's biodiversity, and provide nurseries for fish hatchlings. 

However, commercial fishers had been dragging superfine-mesh nets through entire coral beds, destroying everything in their path. 

"People are thinking about how to get as much fish as they can, but they don't think about sustainability," said Ceasar Ruiz, who grew up in a small fishing village in the Philippines. 

Over 1 million Filipinos depend on their local resources as a means to eat and provide for their families. 

"Everybody has started understanding that we need to conserve and protect our marine environments because it's the last frontier, if we can't fish here anymore, we're going to die," stated Mario Neil Montemar, the president of the local Fisherfolks Association and a former member of Bantay Dagat. "Fisherfolk are the poorest of the poor." 

Recognizing the urgent need for action, Yocor and his team of volunteers decided to take matters into their own hands by patrolling the waters at night, deterring intruders, and defending vital creatures in the ocean waters from harmful overfishing practices, as the Guardian detailed

Not only do their daily collective efforts help to ensure the survival of marine life, but they are also aiding the area's residents by preserving fish populations for future generations.

As the group volunteers their time and efforts to conserving the ecosystem's marine life, they are contributing to the overall health of the environment by supporting a balanced ecosystem that keeps our oceans teeming with diverse species.  

The Bantay Dagat's efforts have significantly reduced the frequency of MPA intrusions, and the group has even collaborated with organizations like Marine Conservation Philippines to report data on wildlife progress and implement programs to collect plastic across the coastline and guard the mangroves.

In the future, Bantay Dagat has goals to further professionalize its team, receive training, and secure proper funding. As Yocor emphasized to the Guardian: "The only chance for us to survive is to police among ourselves."

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