Pola, Oriental Mindoro--The combined effect of MPA and Enforcement Network, community-based coastal resource management efforts, and province-wide annual seasonal closure continues to bear fruit with the recent “fish-picking” phenomenon at Barangay Puting Cacao in Pola, Oriental Mindoro that was experienced by residents of this coastal barangay after the 7th cycle of the province’s annual seasonal closure from Nov 15 to Jan 15.

The community of Puting Cacao, which boasts a Best Managed MPA in Oriental Mindoro and was awarded Top 10 Best-managed MPA in the Philippines at the biennial 2021 Para El Mar national awards, to their pleasant surprise, woke up to an abundance of juvenile sardines stuck feeding in shallow seagrass beds due to low-tide in late January 2024.  The young and old, male and female residents quickly made their way to the seagrass area to salvage sardines by the buckets still fit for consumption. The over-abundance of juvenile fish was likewise experienced in other coastal towns of the province immediately following the annual seasonal closure.

Puting Cacao, Pola has been Malampaya Foundation Inc.’s (MFI’s) marine conservation partner since 2014  along with 15 other coastal sites of Oriental Mindoro and the provincial government for the implementation of a grassroots-based marine biodiversity conservation program that seeks to establish new or expand marine protected areas with regular community-based conservation actions and management to restore coastal-marine ecosystems of the communities.  Since 2014, five (5) of MFI’s partner coastal sites have made it to the top 10 of Para El Mar, including the Ranzo Fish Sanctuary and Agsalin Fish Sanctuary which won 2nd and 1st place in 2021 and 2017 national awards.