Salute to Rotary
In the calm blue waters of Lamon Bay in the Philippines lies a source of pride for local fishermen and a submerged salute to Rotary: a giant artificial reef in the shape of a Rotary wheel which has restored marine life and is protecting the livelihood of several fishing villages in the Philippines. Fishing is the lifeblood of the area’s coastal villages and for years village fishermen fought to protect the waters that fed their families which were devastated by large-scale commercial fishing vessels that used dynamite, cyanide, and fine mesh nets from the late 1990s through the early 2000s.
In 2005, the fishermen turned to the Rotary Club of Atimonan, Quezon Province, Philippines, for help and they decided to build an artificial reef. The Club partnered with the Rotary Club of Madera, California, USA, on a Rotary Foundation grant to help fund the project, which would cost more than $1 million. They built the reef in the shape of a Rotary wheel, which just happens to have plenty of surface area for coral to grow on and plenty of nooks for fish to shelter in. Made of steel-reinforced concrete, it is 600 meters from the coastline, measures about 4 meters tall and 21 meters wide (13 by 70 feet), and weighs several tons.
Today, the wheel is covered with coral and has withstood several typhoons. It attracts fish, including jacks, surgeonfish, mangrove red snappers, groupers, longfin bannerfish, flounders, pompanos, batfish, and barracudas, among other marine creatures. Before the reef, the fishermen were barely able to catch a kilo of fish apiece but today they catch fish weighing up to 2 kilos apiece a day.
Protecting the fish has been just one benefit of the effort to the local economy. The reef has also become a tourist attraction - fishermen build bamboo rafts and rent them to tourists who visit the reef to eat, rest, dive, and even feed the fishes.