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Retro nets and itchy feet

By Amado 'Madz' Blanco (edited by Jon Khoo) |

Talking about the environmental impact of plastics, and connecting it with ghost fishing and community banking isn’t simple stuff – whether in a community or to a group of businessmen there’s always some bewilderment. They might think you were crazy.

But there’s always a “eureka” moment where it all makes sense, it all falls into place.

I recently spoke to Amado “Madz” Blanco our Project Manager (Net-Works) at ZSL-Philippines about these moments – where communities understand Net-Works and what if could mean for their families. Here are three anecdotes of these “eureka moments” in the communities we’ve visited in the last two years:

Retro nets and forward thinking in Negros Oriental

“We were visiting a site in Negros Oriental and I was explaining how it takes 600 years for plastic to degrade and also how improperly disposed ghost nets can catch fish, reducing the size of the catch. As I was talking, I noticed a number of people were smiling at me… I was intrigued, why would they be smiling at these stats and these environmental issues.”

“It turned out that people in this village had been keeping nets from the late-1960s and 1970s… they hadn’t wanted to burn these for nothing, it didn’t make any sense to burn something for nothing.”

“They explained that the reason they were smiling was that our visit had validated this decision.”

“In addition, they explained how the nets showed the decline of fisheries in the Philippines. Since the 1960s, as the decades passed we’d seen mesh sizes decrease (Ed. the mesh size is the size of the holes in the nets)… the mesh size of the 1970s was comparatively huge yet still able to catch plenty of fish/crabs, whereas now we were seeing people doubling up on nets with a tiny mesh size as their catch dwindles.”

Net value for a lady in Cogtong Bay

Visiting Cogtong Bay to talk about Net-Works and collecting nets a lady came up to say she’d burnt 3 sacks of nets, literally the day before. The realization that they could have had value let her with the expression of regret, of somebody who understood the value that could have been. I won’t forget that look on her face when she realised the value lost. It wasn’t her fault, but that’s the difference Net-Works can make.

Itchy feet in Pinamgo

In Pinamgo, I was explaining the pricing for nets. I could feel that people were feeling uneasy, which made me feel uneasy. Initially, I thought they might be thinking about the downsides of fishing nets based on my talk, but that wasn’t it. They looked like cap guns ready to explode…. I then realized that actually they were itching to get out there to scurry and collect nets from the current dump sites. They understood the opportunity and wanted a chance to get out and collect asap.

For a glimpse into the lives of the communities that we work in check out our latest Net-Works video.

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