Rotary helps fishermen in the Philippines

Published 6:22 pm Friday, August 10, 2018

In the calm blue waters of Lamon Bay, Philippines, lies a source of pride for local fishermen and a submerged salute to Rotary: an artificial reef in the shape of a Rotary wheel.

Fishing is considered the lifeblood of the area’s coastal villages, including Balubad, Lubi, Talaba and Kilait, and for years, village fishermen fought to protect the waters that fed their families.

In 2005, the fishermen turned to the Rotary Club of Atimonan, Quezon Province, Philippines, for help. They decided to build an artificial reef.

The club partnered with the Rotary Club of Madera, California, on a Rotary Foundation grant which would total more than $1 million.

They built the reef in the shape of a Rotary wheel, which just happens to have plenty of surface area for coral to grow on and plenty of nooks for fish to shelter in. Made of steel-reinforced concrete, it’s 600 meters from the coastline, measures about 4 meters tall and 21 meters wide (13 by 70 feet) and weighs several tons.

Today, the wheel, touted as the biggest artificial reef in the Philippines, is covered with coral and has withstood several typhoons. It attracts fish, including jacks, surgeonfish, mangrove red snappers, groupers, longfin bannerfish, flounders, pompanos, batfish and barracudas, among other marine creatures.

“Before the reef, the fishermen were barely able to catch a kilo (2.2 pounds) of fish apiece,” says Oca Chua, past president of the Rotary Club of Atimonan and the project’s chair. “Today, they catch fish weighing up to 2 kilos apiece a day.”

One more way Rotarians can get creative in helping neighbors.