Southeast Asia • Philippines

Plastic waste instead of fish, exploitation instead of income

The coastal communities of the Philippine province of Sarangani depend heavily on fishing. But commercial fishing fleets empty fish stocks and fishermen lose their livelihoods. If they are hired for industrial fishing, they often fall victim to exploitation and human trafficking.

The boat, with which Norbhen Costańo goes out, is rented. One day's catch is barely enough to feed his family. (Photo: Mark Henry/AWO International)The boat, with which Norbhen Costańo goes out, is rented. One day's catch is barely enough to feed his family. (Photo: Mark Henry/AWO International)

With depleting fish stocks in Philippine waters, the income of fishermen and their families continues to shrink. The Bay of Sarangani in the south of the Philippines is particularly affected by this. Here, fishermen in small traditional wooden boats (bangkas) compete with large commercial industrial ships. The commercial overfishing in coastal waters massively reduces the catch for small fishermen. Instead of catching fish, they catch plastic waste – highlighting another problem in the community: the lack of waste management in the marginalized coastal communities.

 From the small daily catch, the fishers still need to deduct the rent for the bangka – since very few can afford their own boat.  Fishing is barely enough to feed their families. If small fishermen give up and look for work on one of the commercial ships, they are often exploited. Due to their limited income and awareness of the risks, jobseekers in the fishing industry are increasingly the victims of fraud by illegal recruiters and human trafficking.

Protecting fishermen and tackling marine pollution

OND HESED Foundation was established in 1999 by members of the Oblates of Notre Dame (OND), an independent Catholic order, to implement development projects for marginalized populations of all religions.

Together with our partner organization, OND HESED Foundation – we work on combatting trafficking of fishermen in the province of Sarangani by strengthening self-help groups (SHGs) for the social protection of fishing families, especially mothers and wives, and their communities. OND HESED also complements existing government social services to provide victims of human trafficking with the necessary support. In this way, we not only reduce the risks of fishermen getting caught in human trafficking, but also the risks of new and repeated victimizations of jobseekers. To add, OND Hesed is also committed to improving working conditions in the fishing industry.

 The foundation, like AWO International, focuses on strengthening social structures. To date, OND HESED has founded, supported, and strengthened 19 Peoples Organizations and 243 self-help groups with a membership of around 3,000.

Project information

ProjectReducing the Risks of Trafficking in Persons (and Forced Labour) in Fishing Communities through the Strengthening of Social Structures
Place/RegionGeneral Santos City and municipalities of Kiamba and Maasim in the province of Sarangani, Philippines
PartnerOND HESED Foundation
Target group

Fisherfolk associations and marginalized fishers; wives and families of fishers; victims of trafficking

  • Collaborating with social structures to improve the socio-economic situation and well-being of fishers and their families in General Santos City and Sarangani Province·   
  • Strengthening coordination and cooperation with stakeholders to ensure the active participation of coastal communities in anti-trafficking efforts
  • Helping improve government and civil society cooperation efforts on reducing the incidence of trafficking in persons
Budget73.333 Euro p.a.

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