The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) has recognized the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Philippines as a Gawad Pagkilala Awardee for their work in securing tuna fisheries.

The award was conferred to WWF-Philippines on the 14 th of September, 2020, at the start of the 57 th Fish Conservation Week. The FishCon is held every September. Presidential Proclamation No. 316 has designated the month of September as the Maritime and Archipelagic Nation Awareness Month.

The Gawad Pagkilala Award is given to “stakeholders or partner institutions which have shown exemplary support, contributions, and/or accomplishments in fisheries conservation and management,” as per guidelines from BFAR.

WWF-Philippines was given the award for the work achieved by the Sustainable Tuna Partnerships program. Active since 2011, the STP program has helped organize small-scale fishers, providing them with sustainable livelihood support in accordance with the andate of BFAR. The program has also lobbied for the rights of small scale tuna fishers, and played an instrumental role in the passing of the Local Tuna Management Plan of Lagonoy Gulf.

BFAR V Regional Fisheries Training and Fisherfolk Coordination Division Chief, Dr. Noemi Lanzuela, initiated the nomination of WWF-Philippines for the Gawad Pagkilala award. Dr. Lanzuela, who oversees the fisherfolk empowerment program of BFAR V, has worked closely with WWF-Philippines’ STP program since it was first launched in 2011 as the Partnership Program Towards Sustainable Tuna, or PPTST.

“Partnership means not only maximizing initiatives towards synergy but enabling learning among stakeholders, learning not only how to do things better but to unlearn what we used to know so that we become more effective in what we do, especially in empowering our partner communities. More importantly, partnership is building commitment and trust which are essential ingredients in achieving our goals for a more meaningful engagement of action,” said Dr. Lanzuela.

Recently, the organization was able to establish an inter-province group consisting of small-scale fishers and traders. WWF-Philippines has been working to help their fishers earn Marine Stewardship Council certification, the most highly-regarded eco label for marine resources, and the newly-established group is a strong step in that direction.

“Our partnership with BFAR goes beyond formal agreements. It’s a meeting of minds and hearts, deeply rooted in our long engagement and sincere friendship working on the Sustainable Tuna Partnerships program,” said WWF-Philippines Project Manager Joann Binondo. Binondo has overseen the program since it was first launched in 2011.

“I believe that by working with BFAR, we can create positive impacts in the lives of our fisherfolk. That is all we want at WWF-Philippines. And so we will keep on working closely with the LGUs and with BFAR to empower local fishing communities,” added Binondo. “The government alone cannot achieve its objectives without strong partnership, collaboration, and cooperation among institutions, and our stakeholders such as civil society and non-state actors, who are equally capable if not more capable in providing capacity development to the community as primary stakeholders in the development process,” said BFAR V Regional Director Nelson Bien.

Much work needs to be done before the fisheries of the Philippines can claim to be sustainable, but WWF-Philippines has worked hard with local fishers to #ChangeTheEnding and achieve this goal. The organization remains committed to the small-scale fishers of the Philippines.