Marine Conservation Philippines
Volunteer in Marine Conservation Philippines

Conservation Projects

The following project ideas are meant to be used by people looking to do an internship with Marine Conservation Philippines. Interns are expected to be enrolled in, or already have a background or expecience relevant to the respective topics. This document does not contain complete project proposals, it merely serves as a starting point for inspiration and provides further reading materials. This list is not exhaustive and people who have their own ideas are invited to send their ideas to us. Aside from the project ideas listed in this document, more scientific research ideas are also available for those interested. For any enquires, please contact

Reef restoration

The reef in the Philippines is prone to typhoon damage once in a while. The Visayas used to be an area were typhoons hardly ever occurred, but both in 2011 and 2012 subsequent typhoons Pablo and Sendong damaged a big part of the coral reef along the Negros coast. Because of climate change it becomes harder to predict when typhoons will hit this coastline again.
At several dive sites you can see the impact of the typhoon with big parts of rubble between 6 and 12 m depth. Part of the reef is slowly restoring itself, but coral restoration might help in speeding up the recovery process. However, it is important that the restoration starts directly after the damage is done. Parts of the coral that have been broken off but are still alive can for instance be cemented on the reef again, or can be used in a coral nursery.

Reef restoration is becoming very popular and as more people are restoring the reef, more methods come into existence that might or might not work. Unfortunately active restoration is very expensive, small scale and not always successful 1. Before restoration can be considered, it is important to know which conditions are needed for a successful recovery.
If a typhoon would occur again we would like to have a document or handbook on site which tells us what the best way is to restore coral, so we can start immediately instead of doing an investigation first. We therefore need a student who will look into the different methods of coral restoration and assess which methods would be successful at reefs in the vicinity. You will be working on one or more of the following topics:

  1. Evaluation of different reef restoration methods like coral propagation, corals of opportunity re-planting, artificial reef, stabilization mats and their effectiveness. This would entail both a literature research and a search for existing organizations/ projects who are currently running a successful reef restoration program.
  2. Literature research on which conditions are needed in order to restore reefs successfully.
  3. Development of protocol for reef restoration feasibility study (especially after typhoon damage)
  4. Testing of local conditions for reef restoration.

  1. Edwards and Gomez, 2007

Alternative livelihoods

Small scale fishermen are very vulnerable because they do not make much money for a living. Most areas are overfished and fish catch is decreasing for years already. Bad weather conditions prevent them from having a year-round income and if typhoons are hitting the coastline, fishermen run the risk of their boat and property being destroyed.
Providing an alternative livelihood may mean a higher income for the family. It is important to keep in mind that the provided alternative is sustainable, both in use of resources but also in duration. If multiple people of the same community are provide with an alternative livelihood, the fishing pressure will most likely decrease.

An example of a successful alternative livelihood program was implemented in Sri Lanka by the FAO in 2013. A wide diversity of activities was introduced in several villages and included starting micro enterprises like handicrafts or selling of coconut oil, starting a home garden and skill development trough training for unemployed youth 1. These are just examples of the many already existing options. Aquaculture (seaweed, oyster, mudcrab) is potentially very interesting as well. It is important to keep in mind that alternative livelihoods do not always decrease fishing pressure. Sometimes it provides just a better income, because it is possible for the fisherman to continue fishing or for his wife to take over.

Ecofish is a Filipino organization that provides people in Negros Occidental with alternative livelihoods. The program is sponsored by USAID, but does not run in this area. They have provided locals with alternatives like salt extraction, seaweed farming, oyster farming, and coconut plantations.

Half of the barangays (neighborhoods) in Zamboanguita are situated at the coast. Probably half the male population of Zamboanguita is (part-time) fishermen. Fish catch has been decreasing since the last 20 years and signs of overfishing are apparent. It would therefore be interesting to investigate whether it would be possible to start an alternative livelihood program in this area.
An intern could be investigating one or more of the following possibilities:

  1. Evaluation of successful and sustainable alternative livelihood programs implemented in various countries.
  2. What makes these programs successful? A road map to successful implementation of an alternative livelihood project.
  3. Assessing already existing alternative livelihood programs on the island of Negros.
  4. Interviewing the focus group. Starting an alternative livelihood project only makes sense if local fishermen see the benefits and want to change their jobs or see it as an extra alternative on top of fishing.
  5. A feasibility study of providing small scale alternative livelihood programs in barangay Lutoban.
    • Which alternative livelihoods would work in Lutoban?
    • Sustainability of the project
    • Positive or negative influences on the marine environment
    • Does it really provide a long-term and year round income for fishermen?
    • Start-up costs and investments
    • What kind of training needs to be provided?
    • Requirements for local fishermen
    • (Social) consequences for local fishermen

An example of alternative livelihood and conservation going hand in hand: Mangrove rehabilitation

Mangroves have never been very popular trees. They grow at the intertidal area and are often cleared for coastal development or shrimp ponds, used as wood for cooking fires or chopped because the area surrounding them is very swampy and has many mosquitoes. Removing mangroves can have a severe impact on both the ecosystem and humans. Mangroves function as nursery for several juvenile fish species in which fish have the opportunity to grow up, find enough food and cannot be reached by predators. The mangroves also act as a nutrient filter, making the water at the reef more clear and are a physical barrier in case of typhoon damage.
Siit Bay is a beautiful mangrove area close to the MCP base. In the past, shrimp ponds have been used here but they have been abandoned and these area have been replanted with mangroves. Although it is illegal to cut mangroves in the Philippines, both project developers and locals do not always keep to the rules. The area that used to be covered with mangroves was much bigger in the past than it is now. MCP would like to start a mangrove rehabilitation project in which not only mangroves are replanted, but in which education and alternative livelihoods also play a role. Mangroves can be easier protected if people understand why it is important to let mangroves grow and they can see the beauty of the mangroves with their own eyes.

We would like to give an intern an important role in this project. It entails several activities, including:

  1. managing the already existing MCP mangrove nursery;
  2. setting up a monitoring protocol for managing replanted seedlings;
  3. setting up a monitoring protocol for the whole mangrove area, including training locals who are interested;
  4. designing a proposal for an educational boardwalk in the mangroves;
  5. training local guides who accompany (local) tourists on the boardwalk;
  6. promoting the boardwalk as tourist attraction;
  7. carrying out a feasibility study for apiculture (keeping honey bees in the mangroves);
  8. researching other possibilities for small scale tourism like organizing firefly tours.
  1. Wedathanthrige et al., 2013

  • Derraik JGB (2002) The pollution of the marine environment by plastic debris: a review; Marine Pollution Bulletin 44(9):842-852.
  • Sustainable fisheries and certification

    There has been very little work on sustainable fisheries certification in the Philippines. The demand from tourism industry might exist though. It would be interesting to see if guidelines for sustainable fishing methods in the Philippines could be researched (step 1 below). At a later stage, these guidelines could be used by us, tourism industry or certification agencies to certify sustainable fishers.

    Case: Negros Oriental

    Negros Oriental is home to a lot of dive and beach resorts. Some of these are quite high end resorts. There might be a market for these resorts to use sustainable products in their kitchens. Especially more high-end foreign tourists might be willing to pay more for sustainable products. For resorts it might aid their corporate responsibility image, since they can advertise they are helping conserve the natural beauty for which the tourists come.

    For products to be deemed sustainable, a certification process needs to be setup. Our first priority should be fisheries. The following steps need to be taken to setup a sustainable fisheries certification. We could be greatly supported by the pioneering work of Shangri-La resort (see below) in this work.

    1. We need to develop a first set of criteria to call fisheries sustainable. Our contact at Greenpeace might help with this process.
    2. A market analysis needs to be done; first with resort owners and secondly resort customers to ask for their willingness to pay more for sustainable products. Part of the analysis should be what types of fish (and seefood) would be most interesting for customer, taking realism for sustainable fisheries into account.
    3. In a participatory setup with fishermen’s associations, we need to investigate the willingness of fishermen to trade in their current fishing methods for more sustainable ones. Of course the incentive would be a market for their products which is willing to pay a higher price. After investigating their willingness, we need to refine the set of certification criteria together with them.
    4. A platform should be sought that will faciliate the logistics of certification
    5. An organisation or platform needs to be found which is willing to facilitate the logistics of buying and selling the products. The Naturally Negros 1 group could be interesting for this purpose.
    6. An agreement needs to be signed between resorts, suppliers, certification agency and supply agency as to the terms of the cooperation.

    In order to make it more interesting for the tourism industry to trade in some of their (high demand) less sustainable fish (merlin, tuna, etc) for more sustainable alternatives, we could try to get a good international chef here to demonstrate in a workshop how to use local sustainable fish in quality culinary dishes.

    Solid waste recycling

    Anywhere in the developing world, beaches are littered with garbage. In an archipelago country like the Philippines, this is particularly visible. Besides littering the shorelines, garbage is one of the large threats to marine ecosystems 1,2.

    The yearly International Coastal Cleanup day 3 is an effort to incentivice people to clean up their beaches, and locally more cleanup initiatives take place. These efforts are insufficient to keep the beaches clean though.

    Besides the problem of garbage, coastal communities willing to participate in conservation efforts, often have a lack of continuous funding, due to the usual dependence on external funds. For this project we would like to tackle both problems.

    Different types of solid waste can be recycled into new products. Because of this potential, different companies are willing to pay for different types of solid waste. One example is the recycling of fishing nets in the Net-Works program of ZSL. But also plastic soda bottles and hard-plastics can be recycled, of which the Precious Plastics Initiative is a prime example, and locally the ladies of Lumago create beautiful jewelry using recycled materials. We would like to generate income for coastal communities that can serve as additional income to the people, a source of funding for local conservation efforts, and as an incentive to keep the beaches clean, by setting up a separation and collection system where solid waste that is worth any money can be sold, and other waste is discarded through the municipal solid waste management plan.

    We would like to investigate three different questions:

    1. What examples exist elsewhere of garbage recycling that also provide an income for local people?
    2. What types of commercially interesting or recyclable garbage can be found on the beaches in sufficient quantities?
    3. Are the people in the different barangays of Zamboanguita willing to setup a system of collection and separation of solid waste, and into setting up a socio-economic platform for the collection and selling of the garbage?
    1. Derraik JGB (2002) The pollution of the marine environment by plastic debris: a review; Marine Pollution Bulletin 44(9):842-852.
    2. Islam M.Shahidul, Tanaka M (2004) Impacts of pollution on coastal and marine ecosystems including coastal and marine fisheries and approach for management: a review and synthesis; Marine Pollution Bulletin 48(7-8):624-649.