‘Tribunada’ – A nightmare for fishermen

October 5, 2015 at 11:37 pm Leave a comment

By Yolanda Sotelo
SAN FERNANDO CITY – Around two in the morning, Isagani Cierbo, 46, heads to the sea aboard a powered by an 18 horsepower motor, unmindful of the cold wind and the darkness. He is to catch fish using hook and line near a payaw (artificial reef) or the corals tens of kilometers away.
Then the clouds turn dark and the seawater starts to froth, churning and transforming the blue water into white broth. The waves start getting stronger and bigger, swaying and spinning the boat every which way and prompting the fisherman to pray for safety.
Cierbo is caught at sea by a “tribunada” – a weather phenomenon which combines riotous gale and blinding rain. He has already lost a nephew to this kind of sea disturbance some years back and he could only pray and hold on to the boat to prevent being thrown into the deep blue sea.
He actually had a few minutes to dash to safer areas, away from the route of the expected towering waves, or maybe to the safety of the shore. This is when the sea is showing signs of the impending tempest.
But it takes only few moments when the affected part of the sea with a radius of about two kilometers, becomes a big pot of whirling water .
“You don’t know where the waves are originating. They come from different directions and you are smack in the middle of the turmoil,” Nelson Ferrer, 48, also a fisherman, says.
“But tribunada doesn’t stay long, it dissipates after about 30 minutes to less than two hours, and while it could pose danger to the fishermen, they just wait it out,” Rodel Villena, an aquaculturist of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Ilocos Region, said.
Weathering the tribunada is a part and parcel of the fishermen’s life. The upheaval usually occurs in the afternoon during the months of September to November. But they can occur anytime of the day and any month.
“It is actually worse than typhoons because there are warnings issued whenever typhoons are coming our way. Tribunada comes unexpectedly,” Villena says.
This weather disturbance also seems to be a part of a joke being played by nature on the fishermen.
“It is when the clouds are fast forming and the sea starts frothing that the many fish bite the hook. What would we do? Rush to safety? Or wait until the sea calms? We almost always wait because its not often that we have a big catch,” Edwin Yumol, chair barangay of Ilocanos Sur in the city, says.
Yumol owned the boat which Cierbo’s nephew was using when he caught by tribunada. The nephew’s body was never recovered and the boat was a total wreck when found.
There is nary a fisherman who has not experienced being caught by a tribunada, Villena, who supported his college education through fishing, says.
Tribunada is a term seeminlgy known only to the fisherfolk. When the Inquirer asked Pag-asa officials what this weather disturbance is, no one can give definite answer.
“Maybe it is a tidal wave?” asked an official.
Villena said however, that tribunadas actually occurs inland, but it goes by the simple name “sudden rain.”
“You know that kind of rain and wind that usually occurs in the afternoon? It is the same thing but it is less dangerous inland because we are on solid ground. At sea, the boats and the fishermen are rocked by the strong waves. We are at the mercy of the sea,” he says.
This is why the fishermen fortify the boats with outrigger (katig) which helps the boat float above the waves. It is also the katig that the fishermen hold on to, if the boat capsizes, until they are rescued and brought to safety.
Sometimes, too, victims of tumultous weather hold on to floaters of artificial reefs (payaw), Francis Buccat, provincial fishery officer of La Union, says.
The BFAR Ilocos Region recently turned-over 11 sets of artificial reefs or fish aggregating devices to 11 groups of marginal fishermen in seven towns of La Union. Each group has eight members.
“The devices would make it easier for the marginal fishermen to catch fish, but they are allowed to use only hook and line as what we are advocating is sustainable fishing,” Remely Lachica, BFAR Region I planning officer, says.
The beneficiaries are selected through cross-matching of the BFAR’s list of registered fishermen (FishR) with the list of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) of the Department of Social Welfare and Development.
“The beneficiaries are marginal fishermen, such as shell gatherers, boat workers and fish vendors” Lachica says.
The payaw is a part of the BFAR’s payaw belt program which aims to establish the devices off the coastal towns of Region I, from Pangasinan to Ilocos Norte. A set of payaw is composed of a fiberglass floats with four airtight containers, two rolls (600 meter each) of rope, 25 pieces of plastic hose, two high density fiberglass floats, and a stainless swivel.
The benefiaries are in charge for the “housing” which are usually made of coconut fronds, and which serve as “shelter” for the fish.
The devices are placed either at five kilometers or ten kilometers from the shore.
But while “owned” by the fishermen associations, the payaws are open to anyone who wishes to catch fish, but these are guarded against illegal fishing activities, Lachica says.
While the payaws are “houses” of fish, catching them is still a hit and miss for the hook and line fishers, Dante Bautista, who owns a payaw, claims.
“There are times when the fish go out of the payaw. They also play in the open sea,and it is during those times when we can go back to shore with empty boats,” he says.
Fishermen from this city can go as far as Bolinao in Pangasinan, or more than 30 kilometers away, in efforts to find more fish in the town’s coral reefs.
When they are lucky, a marginal fishermen can earn a net of P500 worth of fish, by being at sea from around two in the morning up to around 12 at noon.
Fishermen spend 24 liters of gasoline to power the 18-horsepower motoboat. They also bring water and one meal to tide them over the hours at sea.
“We have to catch a minimum of 15 kilos of fish just for the gasoline expenses alone,” Ferrer says. After expenses are deducted, the fishermen and the boat owner divides the amount from the sale of the fish.
While it can not help with the weather disturbance problem, the BFAR hopes to make the life of the fishermen easier with the establishment of more payaw, Lachica says.

Entry filed under: News.

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