A statue of the Virgin Mary protects a Philippines coral reef from dynamite fishing
June 14, 2017:
A 14 foot (4 metre) statue of the Virgin Mary, sunk into the coral waters around Bohol province, Philippines has caused catastrophic dynamite fishing to end.
What they did not know (and did not think was their business) was the terrible destruction they were doing, not just to the fragile reef ecosystem but also to their own long-term survival.
The statue of Our Lady of Danajon was placed on the reef to stop dynamite and cyanide fishing by locals. The dynamite and poison destroy the reef and kill sea life indiscriminately. Fishermen harvest only the fish they want, and leave the rest to decay.
This practice is traditional, but it is also destructive and, local Catholic priests teach, inconsistent with the Christian mission to serve as stewards of the planet.
"The statue of Our Lady protects the reef, providing sanctuary for all live, both human and animal," Catholic news channels report.
There is also a statue of Santo Niño
To visit the statues requires scuba gear. Divers visit the statue regularly to honour her, and make sure she is protected. It has had the result of protecting the reef: nobody wants to hurt the Virgin Mary.
"This endeavor is favourable for the Catholic Divers," said a local tourism website.. "Now, they can pray and meditate while being immersed in another amazing world where God’s wonderful creations are appreciated. It gives a moment of deeper reflection than those normally experienced."
A Youtube video of divers visiting the statue has gone viral with more than 2 million views.
This is not the first time local people's faith has been vital in stopping dynamite fishing, protecting reefs and livelihoods.
In the 1990s dynamite fishing was threatening the reefs near the Tanzanian Island of Misali. For the 1,600 local fishermen who were traditional owners of the area it seemed like a blessing. Suddenly, instead of having to waste time looking for fish sites, they just dropped some explosives and there was plenty to eat.
Punishment and legal threats did not work to stop them.
Then in 1998 ARC, CARE International, WWF International and the Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Science, joined together to invite the sheiks on Masali Island to explore Islamic teachings about the appropriate use of God’s creation.
From these studies the sheiks drew the conclusion that dynamite fishing was illegal according to Islam. And they talked to the fishermen. And the they dynamite fishing stopped.
Read more about the Misali Island project here or find out more about it in Chapter One of Faith in Conservation.