Heather Hall, Christopher Joyce
Seahorse fishing discussion.
Amanda Vincent, Christopher Joyce
Impact of fishing discussion.
NPR/NGS Radio Expeditions
23 Feb 2004
- Island of Honduman
- 9.86802 124.178
- SONY TCD-D8
DPA 4060 omni mics; Sonosax preamp
Log of DAT #: 10
Engineer: Marty Kurcias
Date: February 2004
(0:06) MK: Alright today is Feb 23rd, it's in the morning we are on Handuman (sp) in the Philippines off the island of Bohol at Project Seahorse. Chris Joyce and Marty Kurcias stars of this show, the joy boys.
CJ: Yet another day of hard work in the tropical coral reef
MK: Indeed and this is the DPA 40/60 omnipair, and this is just a slate and a mic check. And that sort of thing.
TAPE STOPS AND STARTS
(0:45) MK checking mic channels. Someone is strumming a guitar in the background. CJ cracks a joke, people laugh. Talking, laughing, guitar tuning and strumming, clapping. MK: On guitar it's Blind Coconut Joyce (laughter)
TAPE STOPS AND STARTS
(2:28) Heather Hall: My name is Heather Hall, the associate director of Project Seahorse from the Zoological Society of London.
(2:25) CJ: So you first came here when and what for?
(2:40) HH: I'd been working with Amanda for a couple of years on Project Seahorse more at the technical end of things doing some research on seahorse identification, and I came out here, really because it is hard to get a grasp on the issues unless you have actually seen it for yourself, when you have met the people, you've seen the seahorse fishing, you really understand what's going on because otherwise you can feel disconnected from the real issues.
(3:08) CJ: So when you first came, ah, what were you expecting, and how has that changed overtime now that you see what life is like for people who are fishing for seahorses.
(3:20) HH: What I've seen over the last few years is in some ways very encouraging and in other ways very discouraging, certainly, the lives don't get any easier in terms of the fishing. We've just been listening this morning to dynamite blasting going on and that is really disheartening, you know that there's a big bit of reef that just doesn't exist any more after this morning's activity. That's very depressing, and hearing the very low numbers of seahorses, that the number of hours that the guys are out at night is increasing, that side of things is discouraging. What's encouraging is seeing how people are mobilizing, how they're are working together from a position when I first came and talked to the time they would say, we know the problems, we know what's wrong, we just don't think we can do anything about it. And now you meet people from Kamada (sp) they are working together they are absolutely committed. They really know what they are trying to do and they see some ways of doing it. So there is action now that didn't exist before.
(4:19) CJ: Can you draw for me sort of the route that seahorses take from this village all the way to the final consumer in the aquarium business.
(4:33) HH: The seahorses¿(CJ: It starts after midnight I assume) It starts after midnight on a small boat with a man who has no concept of what an aquarium is. One of most surreal moments out here was trying to explain the purpose of a public aquarium, and what people would come, why people would come look at fish when the ocean is just out there trying to explain the north sea with all its freezing cold water and lack of visibility was quite entertaining. The, the basic catch method, whether they are going to be for the dry trade or the live trade is the same. The selection is for the smaller seahorses will go into the live trade. They get hand caught at night and then go into a small bucket on the boat, come back here and they get sorted out by size and shape. The fishers are very experienced in knowing which is going to get the best price for which purpose. And then within the village there is a particular buyer for the live trade, and so that goes to them. They are packaged up in bags and they will basically be held until there is sufficient fish to warrant tackling them to Cebu where they go to the wholesaler who then export them. So it is quite a long wait and long journey. Now in an aquarium environment when you are keeping them in an aquarium tank you are feeding them four times a day. They don't actually have any stomach, so basically it requires them to have a very regular input of food, so out in the ocean they are feeding all the time on shrimps and stuff that are passing by, so you can imagine that being held for days and in worse cases weeks is not going to do any good for them. They will have water changes but they won't have any food. Um, the next stage is at a wholesaler where again they get sorted out, and then they will get shipped by plane to a wholesaler in Europe or North America, or in the Far East, and at that point they are then sorted out again, and then someone who owns a retail shop will come in and buy them, and then they will go into a pet shop, at which point somebody walks in, thinks they are absolutely a gorgeous animal, and will buy them for their home aquarium. And the problem is is that they are very difficult to look after, the feeding is one thing I mentioned. Not that many people are around four times a day to be pumping in food into their tank, they are prone to disease, so they are certainly not a straightforward aquarium fish to look after. And this is one of the big concerns, after all those steps of the way from the ocean, to the home aquarium tank, and the chances for survival for that animal are not particularly good. So one of my roles as a working for a public aquarium, is to educated people on, first to discourage them unless they really know what they are doing from keeping them at all, and then to improve our knowledge and then the standards to actually keeping them and breeding them successfully in an aquarium environment.
(7:42) CJ: The seahorse, at least the, I guess all seahorse, all species of seahorse, I mean how many species are there by the way?
(7:48) HH: There is currently 35 species, um there were two new ones discovered in the last year so it is an increasing number, but it is somewhere in the region of 35 species.
(7:59) CJ: How many genera, genera?
(8:00) HH: One. Yay, they are all hipacampus (sp).
(8:03) CJ: All hipacampus. (HH: yay) And they're found, but they are found just about all over the world, right?
(8:07) HH: That's right, sea horses are found, if you drew a line through Tasmania and around the world and drew a line through Britain and around the world, they are pretty much found in coastal habitats, (CJ: In between those two¿) in between those two lines.
(8:23) CJ: Given that, when they've been listed under the Convention on International trade of Endangered Species in Appendix two which allows trade in the organism but regulated trade, it would seem to me, and you tell me whether it's true I mean this is the rock and the hard place that you are in-between because that would severely limit the numbers that can be traded and in the Philippines apparently they are going to ban trade in the species, in seahorses completely, coming up in just a few months, and that may be very good for the organism, but very bad for this village and the people that you know. So, how do you compromise.
(9:07) HH: The compromise, it is very difficult because if you are looking at the global conservation of a group of animals and looking in the long term, obviously, the methods of doing that are through managing the trade better, and SITES is one very powerful tool to be able to do that. The Philippines is a dramatic example because the rest of the world there is no limit on numbers, it just has to be documented. We are looking at limiting size which will certainly have an effect on the, so limiting the size of the animals in trade which will certainly have an effect, but it shouldn't dramatically affect, it will just let us understand the trade that much better and look at appropriate management methods. The Philippines is a very dramatic example and when you sit in a community like this and you know the people and you know the individuals that are going to be affected then that's a great concern. The two approaches that we are taking with that is firstly to look at the Philippines legislation and say, is that appropriate, can we do something with that to bring them in line with the rest of the world, and can we support them in being able to do that and manage SITES legislation appropriately, and the second is pressing with or without SITES legislation is that people need alternative livelihoods, there's too many people fishing too many fish -- too few fish at the moment, and what we need to do is look other ways that they can earn an income that enables them to feed their children, and an easier way of life as well. I mean 5-7 hours at sea a night to catch a handful of seahorses isn't a very easy way to make a living or feed your kids, and that's the message that is coming back to us all the time, is to look at alternatives, and that is really one of our priority areas over the next few years.
(10:59) A short pause in the conversation; In background, a motor rumbles, a rooster crows and someone laughs¿CJ explains to HH why noise in the background makes it difficult to edit interviews.
(11:39) CJ: ¿Are you just dealing with seahorses in the aquarium trade here? Or are there other fishes here that are taken for the aquarium trade.
(11:46) HH: In this area there is certain communities that very much focus for the aquarium trade, and others that focus on the dry trade in seahorses. In some places, in some locations, the aquarium trade is the primary threat to seahorses in that area, but if there is an aquarium trade there will always be other fish that will be caught, so that would be angel fish, butterfly fish, a full variety of popular aquarium fishes. The marine aquarium council is operating in this area, and that's been a fantastic initiative to improve standards and I've seen that from before they arrived and started working here, right away through to where they are with certified fish collectors and at the other end there is now um certified wholesalers and retailers in Europe and North America and that has been a fantastic initiative for me to watch because it's very easy when you are in the aquarium business just to look at the fish in the tanks and forget their connection with the fish in the sea, that's one of my priorities in the aquarium world is to remind people both in the industry but also our visitors that these animals have a natural habitat and the importance for us is looking after them in the natural habitat and our conservation projects must secure them in the wild, and having safety net populations in the aquarium is not a comfortable situation. We want to do what we can for them in the wild. So bringing the story of Project Seahorse, of the lives of the fishes, of these communities into an aquarium environment where we've got millions of people coming through our doors every year is a very powerful way of public education of the problems of subsistence fishes living in these coral reef coastal environments.
(13:34) CJ: So you are a biologist. A marine biologist, or a zoologist.
(13:39) HH: I am a marine and fish biologist because I also work on fresh water fish as well.
(13:46) CJ: Where in the UK? Or where?
(13:48) HH:I work, my background was working with freshwater fish in the UK, primarily trout, but now I work on freshwater fish in other parts of the world, and particularly a project we have been establishing in Nepal, and many of the methods that we have learn't here, doing the socioeconomic work looking at how we work with communities we have been able to apply to the communities we work with in Nepal
(14:16) CJ: Um, You know, you could, obviously you've studied a lot of marine organisms, and fresh water organisms, and fish, what is it about seahorses. What is it about seahorses? Why spend so much time with that particular organism, what draws you to the animal?
(14:35) HH: I think seahorses, somebody said to me once, there are about as cute as a fish gets. And I think that's it. Because most people tend to think of fish as food, rather than fish as wildlife. And there are many amazing fish I work with lots of them are quite small and brown, and they are kind of incredible if you are a biologist, but actually putting them in front of somebody and getting them excited about them is quite difficult. Everybody is excited about seahorses they've got that mystical magical charm, they're, you put them in your bathroom, on tiles, they are a very powerful symbol, and the great thing about seahorses is that because they live in so many places, and they live in the most vulnerable marine habitats of reefs and sea grasses and mangroves that if we can use them as a symbol for conservation, we can do a lot more with that. So if you try to get people to protect sea grasses for the sake of sea grasses, they probably wouldn't be that inspired. If you want people to save seahorses, then they start acting, they start supporting, and they really care about them. So they are a fantastic ambassador for marine conservation and that is exactly what project seahorse has used them for.
(15:51) CJ: Well that explains the public's fascination with them but what about yours. Or are you just saying that you are fascinated with them for the same reasons that everyone else is?
(15:59) HH: They are extraordinary fish, there is no doubt about it, I mean I have worked with lots and lots of different kinds of fish and they're weird, the way they behave, just the whole body shape, when you sit and watch them, that's what I do, when the paperwork piles start toppling over and the phones been ringing all day, and you're in meetings all day, you disappear down to the aquarium and sit and watch the seahorses for a while. And that's really when you realize why you are doing the job. It is very inspiring to work with such extraordinary animals. So they have their own fascination. I do enjoy working with a very wide range of fish so I would not say I am completely seahorse, seahorse-mad, whatever, but I do think they are an incredible animal to work with. What amazed me most when I started working with them is that they are such a symbol, I mean everyone knows what a seahorse is, and yet there was so little published about them. For most species we haven't studied them in the wild. For most species we don't know how many young they produce, how long they live, all of those really basic things, and so some of the research we have been doing with project seahorse and through the network of aquariums worldwide, has been actually collecting that kind of information, and you would just automatically assume it would be there, and it's not.
(17:19) CJ: OK. Have we missed anything you think is important?
(17:21) HH: I don't think so, no. We'll leave you here to get some ambient sound.
(17:47) MK: Ambi in the Gazebo where we did the interview with Heather Hall. By the way this DPA omni pair with the low-cut filter in on the sonasax. Sony D8 recorder.
(18:05) Bird is chirping sweetly, rooster crows occasionally, people are talking in distance off mic.
(21:20) End of ambi MK: did not get a motor boat in ambi track, hopes that will not be a problem later on.
(21:23) Man shouts out, MK comes in: Ok, this is Project Seahorse, we are out in the Project Seahorse boat we are just off the coast of Handuman on the Project Seahorse site, these are, it's Monday Feb 22, these are DPA 40/60 omnis, lowcut filter in on the preamp, and we're going to be talking with Amanda Vincent, Chris Joyce.
MK CJ and Amanda Vincent [AV] are talking about how old CJ is, and where they should sit for the interview, who AV is speaking to, CJ is talking about the size of his feet, the sound of his voice with the dive mask on¿
(23:50) AV: We're just off the island of Handuman which is where we started our work quite a lot of years ago now, and eight years ago we worked with the villagers to set up the marine protected area, an area where no fishing of any sort is allowed, so we have been watching this area over eight years and frankly are pretty excited about the way that fish have started coming back in, about the way that corals have started recovering. One of the reasons that the villagers thought this was a good area for no fishing was because there were basically there were no fish left. It was really, very very damaged. When we would swim here, we would go five minutes without seeing a single fish.
(24:26) CJ: This is from over fishing, from illegal fishing? Legal fishing?
(24:30) AV: The damage in this area is from a combination of things, it's from far too much fishing, and when people have fished too much, and are not getting enough catch, they start to use really damaging fishing gears, gears that take everything, gears that perhaps use dynamite or use very fine mesh net, so it's not really a very distinct line between over fishing and using damaging fishing gear, it's just a transition that happens when people get desperate enough. So the combination of those two things as well as just a bit of disregard for the way you need to manage the marine environment just meant that this area had been heavily heavily damaged, there weren't a lot of live corals there were a lot of broken corals but more evidently there were just no fish. So when you'd come out here and you'd swim five minutes and not see anything, this started the villagers have the idea that maybe we'd like a place to study seahorses so originally this rather substantial no take zone that we are about to enter was going to be about 50 square yards, and then gradually over a lot of dialogue they got excited about the idea of a no fishing zone, that would be big enough to act as a base for fish to reproduce, to act as a place for them to a actually grow so that their young could leave the sanctuary and enter the fishery and the adults could leave the sanctuary and enter the fishery.
(25:51) CJ: And there is some evidence that by creating a marine protected area you are creating in a sense a nursery that affects the area around the no take.
(25:57) AV: Oh look marine protected areas no-take zones have three really important uses, one of them is frankly they are just an insurance policy against our rather, our collective rather bad management of marine environments. Um, the second thing is is that they do give us some confidence that we're going to keep species and populations alive to a certain extent even if it is only within that sanctuary until we can improve our management, and then third is very definitely the idea that if you have a safe refuge for animals to grow and reproduce eventually they start to move out, and that should improve the fishery around. And you know frankly for people as poor as those who live in the central Philippines, is that latter reason that's most compelling, that's most important to them ¿that they might actually help their fishery by setting aside some no-take zones. There is evidence for that in a few places in the Philippines I mean the Philippines really leads the world in the research in no-take zones,
(26:52) CJ: Really I didn't know that¿
(26:53) AV: Yay, the first some of the best documented work is in an island about 120 miles south of here called Apo (sp), and when we started our work here in Handuman, we took the villagers to Apo to see what was done there. And they came back really excited because they said look, Apo doesn't have mangroves properly and we have Mangroves and we have a bigger sanctuary so we can do even better. And now the fun thing is that the other two villages on this island have also set up sanctuaries, and we're getting into this really positive competition, each village wants to have a better sanctuary than the one near by. And of course, that's a very different form of competition than who can fish the most out of the ocean, that's a very positive competition. Project Seahorse has now worked with villagers to set up 11 no-take zones, and with many more on the horizon. Our challenge now which is so exciting is to keep up with the request for assistance in setting up no-take zones. Clearly, people who are as poor as people in the central Philippines only push us to establish no-take zones id they are convinced that it makes a difference to their long term future. So, in this sanctuary, this is a sanctuary that has been going now for 9 years, properly enforced for about 7 or 8 of those years, takes a while to get the community comfortable with looking after the sanctuary once they have set it up,
(28:15) CJ: And they have guard houses and they've appointed people to actually spend the night there guarding the sanctuary.
(28:21) AV: Yay the villages, many of them that want to set up marine protected areas, sanctuaries, no take zones, are a little bit restricted by the lack of any money to dedicate towards it, um, no matter how energetic people are in defending their resources they at least need a boat they can ride, they at least need um a torch they can shine if somebody intrudes into this area, so we've been helping them to find some of those critical resources just to set up a very modest guard house, just to buy a very small outrigger boat that can rush around and chase out the intruders if necessary, and the lovely bit is that these very poor villages are now contributing their own resources so they are finding somehow among people who have nothing a few pesos here and there to make sure that they pay the guards once we've assisted them to find the money to set up the guard houses, and when you get that sort of partnership between poorer communities and outside agents, that's when you know you are really moving in the right direction, when they make their own commitment to resource management rather than in being passively accepting in accepting what we suggest they take.
(29:34) CJ: let's talk a little bit about the reef itself. What kind of reef is it? I mean there are various kinds and I can't even begin to be the one to explain that. And, different kinds of reefs support different kinds of animals and you know here you've got this charismatic, I mean lots of fish here are charismatic but you've got this especially charismatic organism, the seahorse.
(29:55) AV: Denohome Bank (sp) which is where we are right now is one of probably something between six and ten double barrier reefs in the world. Double Barrier reefs is a reef that runs a long parallel to the coast in a substantial length. The Great Barrier Reef in Australia is probably the best know. Here we have a double barrier so we have a second reef running parallel to the first, and also parallel to the coast, that sets up a whole series of little coral islands or little coral patches that make wonderful places for fishes to live and it should support a really strong fishery and indeed the records show that this was most of the most important areas for fisheries in the Philippines which is one of the most important coral reef areas in the world. So it is a bit distressing frankly when you get in the water here now and what you see is broken corals rubble and denuded reefs with almost nothing left.
(30:55) CJ: This is from blasting and dynamiting?
(30:59) AV: The over fishing and the consequent damaging fisheries as people get more desperate have led to people destroying the very reef on which their fisheries were based. So, we see that where they have used dynamite you have fragments of shattered coral just lying across the bottom instead of those nice three-dimensional structures that we have come to expect, where they've used heavy bottom trows you see a scowered area instead of the rather rich habitat that is important for fish nurseries. So you end up without homes for fishes, without certain types of food for fishes, and then of course you are also taking the fishes off. When you start to damage the habitat itself, the chances for recovery of fisheries really go down, so the good thing about a marine protected area like this one that we are about to enter is that it protects of course to some extent the fish within in it, and the crabs and the food that the crabs and the fish eat, but it also protects the very structure that is very structure that is necessary for the homes and the hiding places and the protection for these animals, and once you start to have a whole recovery of what we call an ecosystem which is the connected bits in an environment, then you really have some hope for the future, and this is how protected areas are in many ways certainly as important as any other management tool, and in many places more important, because they protect the entire system, really what we would say they protect the integrity of the reef itself, such that it should be able both to look after biodiversity you should get a wide array of different species, a wide array of different animals and plants, but as well it should provide the basis for a much healthier fishery for the people here.
(32:50) CJ: That's a nice definition of ecosystem, thank you I'll remember that one.
(32:52) AV: Good.
(32:53) CJ: ...of how all the bits work together, I like that, that's good. Um, just one more question, and that is, since we are going to be going down and hopefully taking our listeners with us, can you just name some of the species of fish and coral that we are going to see?
(33:10) AV: Ok, um, there are there are really a lot of types of coral on any reef and frankly identifying them to species is a job for an expert that isn't me, but we are going to see lots of different life forms of coral and that is the way we tend to work with it when we are a little less or a coral specialist, so you will have different types of branisching corals that almost look like trees, and they split and become smaller, you'll see big brain corals that have the contours that we imagine our brains have, you'll see¿
(33:40) CJ: Mine doesn't have those contours
(33:41) AV: Oh you might you might, you might be lucky, might still have something left. You'll have lumpy corals, we actually call them lumpy corals which are just big blobs of coral, and then you'll have some soft corals which don't have those hard skeleton we're used to. So you'll have a huge array of corals you're also going to have sponges and the sponges can grow in forms of tubes, they are really a yard high approximately. Or you'll have different types of algae, which is a sort of green marine plant that can come in different shapes and sizes. One you'll see a lot here is called Sargassum (sp), and Sargassum is a brown, branching plant that's a bit like, maybe Gorse if you know that, or Sargassum is similar to a very big creeper plants, you might find in your garden except it's brown and under water. And Sargassum is interesting to us because it seems to be the nurseries for many fisheries for many fishes particularly seahorses the young seahorses often hang out in this brown algea and then as they grow up they go into the coral and as they get a bit larger they go a bit deeper.
(34:50) CJ: Bear with me one more question too, because you reminded me, we might as well d o it now, about the seahorses, as a biologist and someone who is obviously well-trained and could have studied any organism in the world if you wanted to, why did you pick seahorses what is it that draws you to this animal?
(35:08) AV: Well, I work on seahorses because they have to one of the most gorgeous fish around. I'm fond of saying that seahorses are the only fish that will hold your hand. So if you reach under water and tickle a seahorses it lets go of what it's holding and grabs hold of your finger instead, and that is rather endearing.
(35:27) CJ: Kind of like a baby will do that.
(35:29) AV: Yay and seahorses, let's face it, male pregnancy is pretty attractive, and in seahorses, it is only the males that actually go through a complete pregnancy, so I started studying seahorses because I was interested in the evolution of sex differences. If the males got pregnant, what did that mean for other differences between male and female that we take for granted. We tend to assume that males are larger that males are more colorful, more conspicuous, more vocal, more aggressive, but perhaps this was just an artifact of their role in reproduction. So I set off to study that and found that um indeed in seahorses it is the males that constrain how quickly a pair can reproduce, unlike mammals where of course it is the females who limit how many young you can have, but in all other ways, most male seahorses were still male. They were still a bit more competitive to get the matings, they wanted more to get pregnant than females did to give their eggs away. They still tended where there was a difference to be a bit bigger and a bit more colorful, and that led to a whole lot of other theoretical questions, but in doing that research, it led me into an awareness that seahorse populations were threatened but overuse, for traditional medicines, for aquarium fishes, and for souvenirs, like the sort of a key chain that you see at a beach shop. Once I realized that seahorses were being over used, it gave me a focus for my long-standing interest in marine conservation. And all of a sudden there was an entry point ¿ I'm not the only person who loves seahorses, most of the people I talk to find seahorse mesmerizing, they find them fascinating, even if they believe they exist. I mean the first thing is to convince some people that seahorses really exist because they often think of them as the unicorns, they're mythical, surely, and of course our job is make sure they don't become just legendary and just mythical, we want to keep them in the ocean. Um, so in studying seahorses, we realized there was a marine conservation problem. In working with seahorses, we're able to engage people in a whole array of marine conservation challenges and solutions that might not be as interesting if there wasn't this rather endearing animal representing the challenge that we face. So we find that in working to save seahorses, we can certainly work to save the seas in a very general broad sense but people will engage much more thoroughly if they can see and identify with the animal than if it is just one more of the more or less anonymous fish that swim around the ocean.
(38:15) CJ: Well I kept you in the sun a long time, and myself, I'm baked. Shall we go in?
(38:19) AV: Absolutely¿see how many fish we can see¿
(38:20) CJ: You first¿pearls before swine?
(38:24) AV puts on mask, says something unintelligible and splashes into water.
(38:40) AV (off mic, water splashing, boat motor humming): So we are going to want to¿Chris¿we are going to want to swim just off the crest of it, because that is where most of the fishes have gathered. So you're going to look about 2 meters down and you should be seeing parrot fishes, which have these rather interesting beaks, you should be seeing some of the big snappers, even some of groupers, which are really heavily fished around here, you might see barracuda (CJ: that would be nice) um and some bat fish, those are spectacular.
(39:07) CJ: Yes, I saw some of those the other day, they were great. Huge
(38:08) AV: Ah, butterfly fish, a huge array of stuff¿so shall we head out, let's go this way, ok?
(39:20) Paddle away, splashing water sounds, motor in background gets louder.
(40:25) MK: Ok, that was the interview with AV on the boat and I think they have swum far enough away that I can get some ambi to go with the interview, so lets get some ambi for use with the Amanda Vincent interview¿
(40:45) Subtle hum of motor in background, small waves, movements in water, people talking way off mic.
(44:02) MK: Ok end of the ambience, once again that's DPA 40/60 omni spaced, oh, bout ten inches apart inside the zeppelin. No wind sock on the zeppelin it's nice and calm out here today, um, there's a motor under most of that ambi I'm going to try and get some in a little bit without the motor.
(44:42) AV and CJ back on mic, talking about AV's past ¿ interrupted by MK
(46:12) CJ: So ok, we've just finished circling in about 12-15 feet of water on the Dunahum bank, with Amanda Vincent, whose going to tell us a bit about what we've seen so far.
(46:26) AV: When we first started working here this area had no fish, I mean you'd swim five minutes without seeing a fish. So I always love going in these days because what we see is the rewards for the hard work that the villagers have put in and the efforts that we've committed. We've got fish, that's the exciting thing, there are fish, and what we just saw right now was a range of species that are commonly caught for aquariums your home sort of tank, and that would include rasses and damsal fishes and butterfly fishes and little things like that, and then we also saw, most importantly, for the people of the region some fish that would be great food. We saw big parrot fishes and we saw snappers and we saw groupers and we saw something which are called sweet lips, which are rather nice large fish. Indeed, when we've brought some people from the fishing communities into the reef to see what the changes here, we've had the occasional person just burst into tears with sheer excitement. One old man told us that he'd never thought that he would see these fish again in his life, so when communities come to see what the people of Handuman village, the people of this village have done, they go back usually to their own villages with a pretty strong expectation that they can do much the same thing. And the the number of marine protected areas or no-take zones in increasing really quickly, just because the villagers are inspiring others with their successes. One of the best measures of success here is that people fish right on the edge of the sanctuary on the no-take zone hoping to catch the fish to come out. One of the best measures of how successful these no-take zones have been is that things like seaweed farming which are done here go up to the edge of the sanctuary and stop. You can actually see that they are not intruding on the sanctuary because they actually believe that this is an area that offers hope for the future. Ah, recently we were listening to one of the local politicians point out that the term sanctuary should perhaps be seen in religious sense, that it's a sacred site, it's a site that you respect, because it really is what's holy and what's valuable in your life. And I think that's a really important message for people who are trying to find a better future that they should regard these areas as sacred and not intrude on them.
(48:50) CJ: Do you think that this is a model that can work in other countries?
(48:55) AV: Look there is a growing conviction that we are going to have to get into the oceans according to space. We've managed land by space for a very long time. In land we have areas that are used for certain types of agriculture, areas that are used for certain types of industries, certain types of forestry but the oceans we've more or less treated as if they were one bowl of water, and I think we are realizing that we need to start treating the ocean with more respect and having spaces that are areas that you fish in a certain way and having spaces which are areas that you fish at a certain time, or with a certain form of gear, so that you can manage much more carefully your extraction from the see. I think this model of spatial management as you call it or setting aside spaces for different uses is becoming really popular around the world among people who try to think creatively. Um a long of fisheries management still proceeds a lot catching fish a lot of fishing. Let me try that again, a lot of fishing still proceeds in a way that seems to pretend that we're having no problems whereas in fact we know that the oceans are in crisis we know that we are really lacking in fish, we're lacking in fish, we're lacking in food for the future. We've got to look at things differently. So, when you start planning, for different types of use in different places, and you set aside areas for insurance where you don't fish, it offers a new and I think really exciting model.
(50:30) CJ: One of the things that seems to be happening and speaking well as a journalist but also as a lay-person, not in the field of fisheries management and biology, is that, fisheries exports and marine biologists are trying to do the same thing as terrestrial biologists, Eo Wilson, people like that when they created the idea of biodiversity, and the idea of galvanizing public opinion, a public that was ignorant of the species that lived in the rainforest and how valuable rainforests were, rainforests now have become sort of iconic, and when I talk to marine people and they say we really need to catch up in that sense because the world really doesn't have the same sense of the diversity that is under the water. Out of sight, out of mind. How do you go about doing that, getting the public to, I mean for example with terrestrial biology you have these charismatic species in the panda. So you save the panda and in so doing you save the habitat which of course helps all of the uncharasmatic species. How did you do that under the water?
(51:38) AV: Well, the oceans are enormously valuable for both life itself and for food. In the oceans you have about 99 percent of the living space on our planet. That is the places where life is possible at all about 99 percent of them by area are actually in the ocean, so we have some amazingly different life forms, and there are many more types of animals and plants in the ocean than there are on land. It's just that they are not as well known. The oceans of course also offer very very important sources of food. Particularly protein, and many countries draw 30 40 percent of their animal protein directly from the oceans, so we should care about that even if we don't yet care enough about the species themselves. Of course the oceans are also highways and they are also used as dumping grounds. One of the big challenges is that the oceans tend to be regarded as a free for all. Take what you want without limitation. In fact, I think we need to get a sense of ownership that every person on the planet owns the oceans, we're fond of saying in fact that there is only one ocean, it is all connected. So what you do anywhere in the states affects what happens in Philippines, and vice-versa. There is really only one ocean, and it's what connects us all.
(53:12) CJ: So for example if you keep an aquarium with seahorses in the united states in great Britain or in Europe, obviously there is this long chain of cause and effect that reaches all the way back to this village.
(53:25) AV: If you eat almost any fish, somehow you will be connected with the rest of the ocean. If you buy almost any product, somehow you will have affected the ocean because the ship will have come across it, or the oil tanker will have brought the fuel across it. We are all affected by the ocean, but I think we tend to forget that because not too many of us actually enter the ocean. So the growing um number of TV programs and the growing awareness of the ocean is a perhaps a big factor in making us feel a sense of ownership with the ocean. And what we own, we perhaps tend to respect more. So one of the possible areas for change in the ocean is to give more people a sense of ownership. I was talking to a very poor fisher in Danahum Bank last week and I asked him what he thought conservation was. This is a man whose life depends on fishing, not on protecting. And he said well, conservation is personal discipline. And that hit me in a really important way because what he was suggesting, he went on to explain, was that we needed to be careful of what took and how we took it. WE needed to listen to messages and react as we learned more. And in fact we went on as group of people talking fishers and me that conservation and fisheries were all about discipline, knowing what you could take and what you couldn't take and behaving accordingly. And that was discipline as an individual, discipline as a community as you set up marine protected areas like this one and then enforce them. Discipline among police and courts so that laws are actually enforced to protect environments. And also discipline by governments who have to really show a sense of leadership in this. And then we had a little eureka later when we realized that people are only pretty disciplined if that think there is a benefit in discipline to them. If you just give a whole bunch of people a lot of money to spend, they all try to compete with each other to spend more. If you tell them how much each of them can spend they are going to spend wisely and cleanly and clearly. It is the same with the oceans I think that if you suggest that the oceans are there for you to grab what you want, we won't have very good management, if we can start to find a way where there is a sense of ownership either by individuals or by community or by a particular group of people, then I think you are going to see people treat their own resources much more respectfully. Around the world right now we have countries owning their own waters, up to 200 miles off shore usually, but not even showing responsibility in that degree of ownership, and certainly not on the high seas which are open to anybody to fish. In the Philippines there is a kind of different model in that the municipalities own their waters the towns own their waters until about 10 miles off shore. And I think that it is that sense of ownership by towns that is leading people here to perhaps set examples for the rest of the world in taking charge of marine management and taking charge of how they use their resources from the ocean.
(56:44) CJ: That said it well, thank you very much. I like the anecdote about your friend the villager and what responsibility is conservation as discipline. I think we are fine.
(56:56) AV: Could I just do one more thing (CJ: before I drown?) maybe if we just go with, you started here to work on seahorses and now what is the scale of the project¿
(57:04) CJ: Oh yes, I was going to, I'm glad you reminded me. Tell me what you intended when you first came what were your goals and how have they changed since you spent nine years here.
(57:15) AV: Well, I came here as a research biologist, and I knew there was a seahorse conservation problem, so I came to study seahorses to see what we could do about the problem. It is almost hard to imagine now how naïve I was ten years ago to think that by studying seahorses I would some how help secure the future, what you gradually learn when you immerse yourself, no pun intended, in marine conservation is that species are great ways to get people to care about bigger issues, but they are not enough. So you start maybe by working on seahorses, which are lovely fish, and then gradually your realize that you are going to have to start working on other species because it is all interconnected. And after a while of course you see their habitat is damaged so you start working on the whole set of animals and their homes, and the ecosystem if you will. And then you realize, wait a second unless you have people involved in sorting out this problem, this is going no where, so you start to work with the people who both use the waters and depend on the waters because they're the ones who can solve the problems and you can't solve them in abstract as an outsider. And after that, you begin to realize, you know what, just working with communities isn't enough, you're going to have to help communities find other ways to make a living, if you want them to diminish the number of fish they take from the ocean and the way, and improve the way they take them, so you get into economics, and then we get into developing new livelihoods for communities. And all the way we are trying to organize communities so that they have a stronger sense of empowerment they feel they can make a difference. And then you suddenly realize you've got to bring the government in, and then before you know what is happening, you've gone from studying seahorses to changing international policy, just because everything is connected, and we don't have the luxury of doing one thing at a time. The oceans are in such crisis, that you've got to really tackle it on every available front, in the hopes that that collective pressure will lead us towards some more intelligent long-distance thinking.
(59:28) MK: Can we just get some ambi¿a boat comes by, CJ is turning into a prune.
(1:59:50) CJ: You wanted to talk about that last point, succinctly, that you start with something as prosaic, but something as specific as the seahorse and then you discover that it's not just the organism stupid, it's the habitat, no it's not just the habitat, it's what?
(1:00:07) AV: I'm still sometimes amazed we came here to study seahorses and we are now working with communities on improving their livelihood, we are now working with government on improving the law enforcement and we are working with international conventions to set up new ways of managing trade in wild fishes. Sometimes it's hard to remember how we got from A to Zed but it is simple all connected. If you do everything, then you have a chance of putting pressure on all the right places until eventually you get the answers you want and the solutions that you need. So far we've been really lucky in having major conservation gains and then of course for the environments in which they live. Is that more what you wanted or still? (MK: Let me just get a little sound here¿) And then maybe something about marine protected areas¿Ambi collection here until AV interrupts¿Can I just say something about the marine protected areas?
(1:01:32) CJ: You've got enough? Ok, short and sweet about the marine protected areas¿
(1:01:39) AV: One of the best possibilities for brightening the future of our oceans is to set aside places where we just don't do any fishing. So these are called marine protected areas or sanctuaries, or even no-take zones and they are very good at providing insurance for the future as well as making sure that we have species of fish and other animals that are not being taken as well as making certain that we have breeding grounds for the fisheries so the fish that are born and grow in the sanctuaries can actually go out, and be caught by people and give us food for the future. It is proven really successful almost every where it's tried, and now we are starting to set up zones where certain types of fishing are allowed with certain gear, as a half-way house between no fishing at all, and the real free for all that occurs in too much of the ocean¿More what you want? (CJ: Yay)
(1:02:59) CJ: We like to get what we call an ambience tail¿.
(1:03:16) CJ: What is it that Project Seahorse does that is different from other conservation efforts?
(1:03:20) AV: Project Seahorse is pretty unusual because we study things and then we also change things. Everything we learn helps us decide what to change, and everything we try to change helps us decide what to study. And we do that with a lot of different people, people from different countries, people from different trainings, people from different outlooks. That forces us to realize that conservation is complicated, and that we'll have to be quite creative if we want to avoid oversimplifying if we really want to find the solutions. Conservation is not simple, but it's critically important.
(1:04:08) CJ: I'm a prune¿
(1:04:12) MK: collecting ambi for second interview with AV off the side of the boat with them in the water¿sounds of water lapping against side of boat, motor humming in background¿MK: Ok, end of ambience, I guess we are just not going to get any without a motor.
(1:07:03) TAPE ENDS