NORLAN Pagal never thought his campaign against illegal fishing in his native San Remigio would almost cost him his life.
But despite being wheelchair-bound, Pagal never wavered in his mission to protect his northern town’s coastal waters against illegal fishermen.
For his efforts, Pagal and three other persons from other parts of the Visayas were honored by Oceana, a nongovernment organization, as its pioneering awardees for its first Ocean Heroes Award.
Pagal told Sun.Star Cebu that he was returning home from a fiesta celebration in a nearby barangay last year when unidentified men waylaid him and shot him several times before leaving him for dead.
The men behind his ambush were believed to be illegal fishermen that he had caught conducting compression fishing.
A bullet wound pierced his spine that turned him into a paraplegic.
In 2010, Pagal said he was also almost killed when illegal fishermen threw a stick of dynamite on the patrol boat he was riding.
Three years ago, he said he was attacked by illegal fishermen when he caught them fishing inside a marine protected area.
For 13 years, Pagal said, he has been staunch advocate of fishery laws and has served as the seaborne patrol chief for his barangay.
He also organized a volunteer program for roving, monitoring and enforcement of fishery laws with other fisherfolk organizations in San Remigio.
For his efforts, Oceana awarded Pagal with a plaque and a cash prize of P50,000.
Pagal plans to use half of the money to provide assistance to the Anapog Fisherfolks Association.
Aside from Pagal, Oceana also recognized three “heroes” from Negros Oriental and Negros Occidental for their efforts in protecting important marine resources within the Tañon Strait Protected Seascape (TSPS).
In the women’s category, Oceana awarded Veda Raunillo, who served as fisherfolk provincial director for Negros Oriental.
Raunillo, who hails from Guihulngan City, was recognized for her active part in guarding the city’s marine protected areas.
Oceana also awarded Oliver Dayupay, a fisherman and a registered scuba diver who has assisted in protecting marine sanctuaries in his native Ayungon.
Dayupay, who died from a heart attack earlier this year, was represented by his wife Eden.
For Negros Occidental, Oceana awarded Roberto Quigay for his efforts in establishing marine protected areas, fishing vessel registration and fisheries management plan in his native San Carlos City.
Lawyer Gloria Estenzo-Ramos, vice president for Oceana Philippines, said that efforts of the four awardees will inspire others to come up with initiatives to protect the TSPS.
Dr. Isabelo Montejo, Department of Environment and Natural Resources 7 director, said the protection and sustainability of the Tañon Strait depends on the participation and involvement of people like them.