Save Philippine Seas

NOW HIRING: Project Manager for Pawikan Watchers

Pawikan Watchers is a training program based in La Union where local and international volunteers will be trained on the biology and ecology of sea turtles and government-approved guidelines for handling sea turtles in various situations. It also aims to instil a sense of responsibility and stewardship among locals by actively participating in the conservation and protection of our marine resources.



Pawikan Watchers was one of the 2013 winners of the British Council’s I Am A Changemaker competition. It is a collaboration between Route +63 and SPS. Project partners include CURMA and Marine Wildlife Watch of the Philippines.

SPS is looking a Project Manager to implement Pawikan Watchers with guidance from SPS co-founders.

Period of engagement: September 15-February 15, 2014 (5 months)

Type of engagement:

Home-based from September-October 2014 and February 2015

La Union-based November 2014-January 2015

Two-week break from December 22, 2014-January 4, 2015

The Project Manager must:

  • Be available to meet with consultants in Manila and conduct ocular inspections in La Union in September/October
  • Manage logistics
  • Lead in the selection of the Pawikan Watchers
  • Manage the volunteers on-site
  • Coordinate with local stakeholders, government agencies, SPS, and Route +63
  • Write monthly accomplishment reports
  • Oversee disbursements of funds
  • Coordinate with resource speakers for invitation and confirmation


  • Passionate about education, marine conservation, and the Philippines
  • Prior knowledge on sea turtle biology and conservation issues is a plus
  • Possesses organization and presentation skills
  • Must have background on research
  • Detail-oriented and resourceful
  • Highly motivated and personable
  • Strong leadership skills
  • Experience in community organizing is a must
  • Speaking/understanding Ilocano is an added advantage

Remuneration: P81,000 for the entire duration of the project

In addition to professional fees, SPS will cover all expenses incurred for transportation, accommodations, food, and meetings.

Interested applicants may submit their resume and cover letter to savephseas[at]gmail[dot]com. Selected applicants may be interviewed over Skype.

Deadline for applications is on September 5, 2015.


 Photos from Route +63.

Why visit Malampaya Sound?

By Carlo Roberto Felix 

1. You will be seeing the Irrawaddy dolphin, an endangered species. It is an animal that you might miss altogether if you don’t go see it now.

2. Responsible tourism in Malampaya Sound can benefit the dolphins significantly by encouraging fishermen to work harder at preventing dolphin deaths, because their income from tourism can match or even surpass their income from fishing.

3. The fishermen will benefit directly, too. Imagine, if they had tourists everyday during dolphin watching season, they will earn a day’s worth of fishing in only a few hours every morning.

4. Even if the dolphins don’t show up, you will be seeing a lot more than water. The trip starts early enough that there is still mist everywhere. If you combine the sun, the mist, the trees and the land masses around you, you can get pretty awesome results with your camera. At night, the mangroves are full of fireflies (or so I’ve heard).

5. The whole activity is like an educational ecosystem tour. Visitors will be seeing a whole stretch of mangroves on the way to and from the Inner Sound. Birds can be seen feeding on the riverbanks and on the mangrove canopy. You will be seeing first-hand all the activities that happen in a fishing ground.

Read more about Carlo’s visit to Malampaya Sound to see the Irrawaddy dolphins here.

Watch the video of his trip here.

The Irrawaddy Dolphins of Malampaya Sound

Text and photos by Carlo Roberto Felix

The municipality of Taytay was the first capital of Palawan during the Spanish era. It has great potential for tourism, but is still largely untapped. Many people visit Taytay en route to El Nido as a stopover from Puerto Princesa. They stay for a few hours, a night or two at most, only visiting one or two places in the area.

When my family and I were in Taytay, we stayed for two nights because I had been wanting to visit Taytay for one reason - the Irrawaddy dolphins of Malampaya Sound.

Where It Happens

Any accommodation or resort in Taytay can point you in the right direction if you ask about dolphin watching in Malampaya Sound. They require at least a day’s notice. Dolphin watching is only done in the morning. On the night before the trip, they advise guests if the dolphin watching will push through, depending on weather conditions. On the day itself, they pick up guests at 5am via a tricycle to go to the takeoff point for dolphin watching, Barangay Poblacion.

What You Will See

Guests are accompanied by only one guide/spotter, who is also the boatman. The boats, also owned by the fishermen, are small, only able to seat two people comfortably aside from the boatman. The ride starts from the river, which lined by mangroves. It is also possible to spot birds. 

Malampaya Sound is well known as a fishing ground, although its richness has seemingly dwindled over the years. As such, there are fish traps everywhere, for fishes and crustaceans, and bigger fishing boats can be seen farther out.

When the boatman spots dolphins, he directs the boat towards them and tries to get as near as possible without driving them away. As the boat gets closer to the dolphins, he turns the engine off, so as not to scare them. Once they swim off, he looks for them again.

The dolphin watching trip lasts for 2-3 hours, and the boat is usually back to the takeoff point by around 10am.

Where the Money Goes

The dolphin watching fee is P1,800 per boat, and up to 2 people can share a boat. The payment is collected by the accommodation’s representative (who may also be one of the tricycle drivers) after the trip. The boatman gets around P1,000 from that payment, while the remainder (~P800) goes to the resort for arranging the trip.

The boatmen are all fishermen, who take turns accompanying guests as an alternate source of income. On days when they go fishing, they can take home anywhere from a few hundred pesos to close to a thousand per day, depending on how good the day’s catch is.

On days when they go dolphin watching, each boatman usually spends around P180 to P200 for fuel per trip, which means that they can earn up to P820 for only a few hours of dolphin watching, compared to a whole day (or night) of fishing. 

Difference with Other Dolphin Watching Sites

The Irrawaddy dolphins eat the same animals that the fishermen catch. They are often spotted near the fish traps. The waters of Malampaya’s Inner Sound are relatively shallow—in some places only several meters deep. The water is turbid because the sand is mixed with mud and sediments coming from the river and the mangroves. It can be hard to spot a dolphin even if it’s swimming right under or beside your boat, unless it breaks the surface. 

Irrawaddy dolphins are not as “active” or “acrobatic” as other dolphins; they don’t swim as fast, jump as high, and bow-ride, unlike Spinners or Bottlenoses, for example. (They do spit, however.)

Visitors cannot expect the same level of dolphin activity, excitement, or the same kind of experience that they can expect to find in Bohol, for instance, because Malampaya Sound has a different kind of dolphin and a different environment. Irrawaddy dolphins are critically endangered in the Philippines, so there are only a few dolphins to see. They also tend to form smaller pods, usually no more than 10 dolphins in a pod.

Recent estimates put Irrawaddy dolphin numbers in Malampaya Sound at around 50 individuals. They have a high mortality rate caused by entanglement in fishing gear, pollution, and habitat degradation.

As with other wildlife watching activities, sightings can never be guaranteed. It is very important for weather conditions to be right when you go looking for dolphins, but it’s even more crucial when you’re in the Sound, because of the way the dolphins live and behave. If you really want to have a lot of sightings, it will be better to allot at least two days. 

It’s also more costly to go dolphin watching in Malampaya than in other provinces, with the rate being at least P900 per head. This is because the boats are smaller, and the number of tourists has not yet reached a point where the rates can be sustainably lowered. The fishermen are also not yet formally trained to be tour guides; they don’t deliver spiels and share bits of trivia. They simply drive the boat and spot dolphins.

My Dream

I would like to see Irrawaddy dolphins again, as often as I possibly can, in my lifetime. This will only happen if Malampaya Sound is preserved, and if the dolphins stop becoming by-catch. Malampaya Sound is a very beautiful place, with great ecological and economic importance. Seeing it is definitely worth the price of an expensive boat ride, whether the dolphins appear or not. And if dolphins show up, then that’s a very big bonus! 

A shark finatic speaks up

Earl Xavier C. Go

Nurse by profession, shark fanatic at heart

I was fortunate enough to come to love sharks at an early age, around 7 or 8 years old. It’s an age when kids come to know that they love dogs, cats and even reptiles. While most kids asked for robots or Lego for birthdays and Christmas, I asked for videotapes or books on sharks. I learned to draw sharks, and every new book I got, I read in a week. Over the years, I’d say I’ve built up a significant collection of shark books, videos, posters, DVDs, and other shark memorabilia.


Of late, I’ve taken to collecting miniature models of the different species. There’s a drive in me to know all there is about them even if I don’t have a PhD to back it up. I can tell Lamna nasus (porbeagle) from Lamna ditropis (salmon shark). I can even recognize most of the species commonly and not so commonly seen in photographs. Overall, you could say I’m a shark finatic!

Sharks hold my interest like no other. There isn’t one particular reason why I love them—there are a lot, actually. But if I were to pick one, it would be this: the first sharks appeared in the evolutionary timeline during the Devonian Period, around 450 million years ago. That’s a full 300 or so million years earlier than the first dinosaur and they’ve been virtually unchanged the last 100 or so million years, with the hammerheads being the relative “new kids on the block” since they appeared “just” 10 million years ago. 

Just think about how long that span of time is. We humans only came around 2 million years ago and yet, we make big news about finding this certain set of ancient human fossils like we just found Atlantis. Sharks would probably scoff at that and think, “Piece of cake!” I think that when something’s been around for that long a span of time, it definitely needs our respect and it’s worth studying.

When I got wind of the first-ever Philippine Shark Summit on social media, I was thinking how awesome it would be if I could get in. I didn’t even know I needed a formal invite! I sort of snuck in to the venue. I got in through one of the open doors on the balcony of the Provincial Social Hall! I figured I’d act like I was part of the whole thing and no one would probably notice.


Once the presentations started, I was all eyes and ears. It amazed me to know how fisheries are actually affecting the local shark population. I knew it was bad, but the figures surprised me. In the workshops, I was fortunate that Anna [of Save Philippine Seas] was kind enough to allow me to join even after realizing I hadn’t been formally invited. Hearing everyone from different sectors such as government, fisheries, tourism, and youth speak their minds was an eye-opener for me on how the perception of sharks can change if only people were more aware.


It has always been a dream of mine to be actively involved in shark conservation and God-willing, research. With so many shark nuts cramped into the same room and sharing the same beliefs as I do that sharks are totally awesome and need our help, it’s like someone flicked a switch in me.

I have decided to become all the more hands-on in fighting for the cause we all share. Shark Summit 2014 has given me the platform and the initiative to firmly make that decision. I’m neither a marine biologist nor am I associated with Greenpeace or similar organizations. I’m actually a nurse by profession. But my heart beats for sharks and I feel that in the end, it is my calling to fight for their protection and push for others to do the same. I want to see the day when sharks are no longer regarded as mindless killing machines but as perfect predators who we need to keep our oceans healthy for our sake.

Sharks have survived the five mass extinctions that have plagued Earth since they came around. For sure, if we induce the sixth by our own hand, there’s no way they’ll survive. Sharks call this planet “home” too, and have every right to swim free in the oceans as much as we deem ourselves to walk freely on land. We need to remember that we are all connected in the web of life. What happens to them eventually happens to us. Sharks can’t speak for themselves and human ignorance has been their downfall.

Let’s give sharks a voice and a chance at survival. 

Saving our sharks one bite at a time: A review of the 2014 Shark Summit

By Kaye Lanaria         

As a kid, whenever my cousins and I would go to the beach, we would tease each other about sharks being in the vicinity. We’d tug at each others’ feet or pull each other down, pretending we were sharks.

For years, such has been the image of sharks. This gross misconception is one major reason why people think it is okay to disturb, hurt, kill, and eat them. Sharks seem scary cause they’re big, have sharp teeth, and we know they may have the capacity to hurt people. 

What most people don’t know is that sharks help maintain ecological balance. Several shark species are apex predators, which means they are on top of the food chain and help regulate the population in the lower levels of the chain. Just imagine how the ocean would be if there were no sharks that would eat the smaller, sick, or dead fishes; or how the ocean bed would look like if there were no sharks to “discipline” the grazers who eat seagrass and algae. An imbalance in the marine ecosystem would affect humans, as the seas are our source of protein, tourism, livelihood, and economy.

It was uplifting to hear that a Shark Summit was being organized in Cebu. We have a number of shark conservationists in the country, but they could make a greater impact if they would come together and be able to share what they have done for the common cause and not just in their individual niches. On August 14 and 15, representatives from the academe, media, local government, government agencies, NGOs, private businesses, and shark enthusiasts came together to discuss several concerns on the conservation and utilization of sharks and rays. One of the things I learned is that the Philippines has an Environmental Ombudsman! If there are government units that are operating ineffectively with regards to the implementation of environmental policies, anyone can contact the Environmental Ombudsman’s office or its satellite offices to seek for help.

The 2014 Shark Summit was, I think, a necessity well delivered, as the entire event was divided into different thematic discussions and interactions, which heightened the focus on specific issues, gaps, and statuses in research, policies, enforcement, tourism, and advocacy campaigns. All groups then had to identify what specific plans of action were needed for their resolution.

During the presentation of each thematic group to the plenary, a similar matter was raised: the lack and need for community involvement. While we do have professionals working for the cause, somehow we fail to put into utmost consideration those who are directly involved with the matter, such as the fishermen and the market vendors, to name a few. Aside from just educating them with the technical facts, it is also essential for them to be involved in the planning and policy enforcement for them to fully understand the value of the message we are trying to put forth.

On the second and last day, participants were asked to post their specific commitments and contact information beside the list of recommended actions, so we would know exactly who to approach and work with in the coming months. This will also help the Shark Summit organizers evaluate how many of the participants followed through with their commitments during the 2nd Shark Summit. 

The 2014 Shark Summit is worth commending. For a first conference, it was very productive and inspiring. Maybe for the next summit, the organizers would already consider inviting the younger audience.

As what Cebu Governor Hilario Davide III emphasized in his speech during the opening ceremonies of the Summit, there has to be a balance between exploitation and conservation for sustainability. Such can only be realized if we had the same mindset towards such reality.

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