Marine tourism as a supplemental livelihood: an exploration of remote fisheries-based communities in the Philippines
Remote artisanal fishing communities in the developing world remain highly dependent on declining marine resources. Despite this, many internationally funded fisheries development projects seek to increase catch rates and commercialise artisanal fisheries as part of livelihood development projects. Such an approach tends to increase pressure on local fisheries and contribute to further declines in fish stocks. In order to mitigate this negative outcome, the integration of a supplemental livelihood such as marine tourism has been suggested. This approach is based on the assumption that participation in the tourism sector has the potential to benefit both the resource and those dependent on the resource. This research investigated the perspectives and knowledge of members of three remote fishing communities in two areas of the northern region of Luzon, Philippines. This exploratory qualitative project utilised phenomenological inquiry as the main research instrument. Perception-based data that focused on livelihood satisfaction, perceptions of the current state of marine resources, tourism awareness and willingness to engage in tourism as a livelihood diversification were collected from 42 fisherfolk via face to face interviews. Additional information was gathered from five key informants that represented key stakeholders, including local and foreign tour operators, NGOs, international aid agencies and fisheries management at the government level. More specifically, key informants were asked to identify costs and benefits of tourism as a livelihood diversification strategy as well as provide examples of its application.
This research revealed that the fisherfolk participants were generally satisfied with their current livelihoods and, therefore, did not express a desire to shift livelihoods. This sentiment appears to be a result of currently being able to 'make ends meet', albeit through resource overexploitation and the use of illegal fishing methods. Further, key findings, primarily the gross under awareness of tourism within remote artisanal fishing communities, suggested that the current approach to tourism development requires modification. However, the high social value associated with the idea of receiving visitors by fisherfolk enforced the viability of tourism as a diversification strategy. Most importantly, the data from two key informants documented two potential successful surf-riding tourism development projects from the private sector that have worked to engage fisherfolk in the tourism sector. Elements from these modes were combined to suggest a contributory tourism development model based on social entrepreneurship and resource conservation components. This new model proposes the privatisation of livelihood diversification through small-scale tourism development in the context of fisheries. In light of the suggested privatisation, it is further recommended that direct conservation and enforcement of the resource be prioritised with the resulting unobligated funds from international aid efforts. The application of the suggested model aims to significantly reduce the current development project timelines and budgets, provide growth in the private sector through social entrepreneurship, provide accessible diversification opportunities for fisherfolk and provide a conservation strategy for the natural resources, and thus, provide long-term protection for the dependent communities.