Sustainable fisheries advocate Gerlie Menchie Alpajora has risked life and limb to campaign against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUUF) in the town of Sagñay in Camarines Sur. Though fraught with danger, her work has brought illegal fishers behind bars and has allowed the local government to strengthen initiatives to protect finite marine resources. But last July, she was gunned down in cold blood.
In recognition of her bravery, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF-Philippines) is giving Alpajora a posthumous Hero of the Environment award.
“We thank Ms. Alpajora for her dedicated service as a true environmental steward. We will remain inspired to secure a better future for communities that rely on our seas for food and livelihood,” says WWF-Philippines President and CEO Joel Palma. “We also denounce the cowardly act of silencing a strong voice against illegal activities that plunder the wealth of our seas. We lost an ally in the frontlines of conservation and we demand swift action to deliver justice to Ms. Alpajora.”
Alpajora was shot last 29 July in her home. Investigators described her killing as strongly linked to her efforts to combat illegal fishing. "After careful analysis of the circumstances, the killing of Gerlie Menchie Alpajora has great connection with her work, particularly her advocacy against illegal fishing in her place," read the Investigation Report of Sagñay's Municipal Police Office.
Alpajora served as secretary of the Sagñay Tuna Fishing Association (STFA) where she was tasked to monitor IUUF. She also helped the local government implement its Fisheries Registration and Licensing directives. A week before she was shot, Alpajora reported she had received death threats from relatives of an illegal fisher that was arrested and imprisoned by the Bantay Dagat. The fish wardens had acted on information Alpajora reported.
Alpajora, a 33-year-old mother of two, was also actively involved with WWF-Philippines’ Partnership Programme Towards Sustainable Tuna (PPTST). The initiative works with private and public sector leaders to sustainably manage tuna stocks in the Occidental Mindoro and Lagonoy Gulf, the Bicol Region’s best tuna fishing enclave.
"It is our hope that Ms. Alpajora’s sacrifice will not be for naught. Threats to our seas continue to mount and we call for an increased protection of our environmental stewards,” adds PPTST Manager Joann Binondo, who will turn over the posthumous environmental hero award to Alpajora's family this August.
WWF-Philippines’s Heroes of the Environment program was launched in 2009 to reward individuals that show decisive environmental action. Previous awardees include an 8-year old who helped save a wounded risso’s dolphin (Grampus griseus) in Mindoro, highly-acclaimed dolphin and peace mural artist AG Saño, and a 63-year-old fisherman from Ilocos Norte who saved an adult rough-toothed dolphin (Steno bredanensis) trapped in a fishing net.
For more information:
Ms. Joann Binondo
Partnership Program Towards Sustainable Tuna (PPTST) Project Manager, WWF-Philippines
Mr. Gregg Yan
Communications Manager, WWF-Philippines