Is that a refrigerator or a fishing boat?
When you don’t have the fishing gear you need, improvise.
That’s just one of the many lessons to be learned from the survivors of Typhoon Haiyan, the massive natural disaster that left many cities and towns in the Philippines and beyond devastated, in desperate need of rebuilding. The recovery effort from the typhoon will likely take years, but fishermen in the coastal community of Tanauan are already finding ways to get back to work – not in their fishing boats, which were swept away and destroyed by the typhoon, but in improvised vessels fashioned from recycled refrigerators.
Tanauan was just one of the many towns in the eastern part of the world left fighting dire straits after Typhoon Haiyan. Reports indicate that many areas throughout the Philippines suffered complete loss of infrastructure thanks to the storm. And fishing communities like Tanauan have been left in particularly difficult situations, with no boats left to use for catching the fish that largely sustain the local economy. Since it takes Tanauan fishermen roughly two months to build the boats they usually take to sea, the small coastal community could easily have despaired in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan.
However, “despairing” is not a word that can be used to describe Jimmy Obaldo, the 52-year old fisherman who was the first person in the area to go through the steps of fashioning a fishing boat from the shell of a derelict refrigerator. While Obaldo was the first to put the idea of a refrigerator fishing boat into action, it was his imaginative and inquisitive children who gave him the creative idea.
Of course, recycled refrigerators don’t exactly make the best fishing boats in the world. They are boxy and heavy for one, making them very difficult to steer and paddle – and according to Obaldo – not terribly effective in water that is anything but completely calm. Furthermore, fridge boats have to stay close to shore and not carry much weight – either in human passengers or in fishing nets and other gear – for fear that a weather shift could easily lead to trouble.
However, the inherent shortcomings presented by using recycled refrigerators as fishing boats hasn’t stopped many Tanauan fishermen from mimicking Obaldo’s idea. After seeing that Obaldo was not only able to paddle out to sea and catch fish, but that he was also catching enough fish to feed his family and to make some money at the local market, other area fishermen repurposed their fridges for maritime use.
Still, while Obaldo’s idea for a refrigerator fishing boat has kept his family fed and kept some market shelves stocked with high quality food, the idea has not been enough to counteract the effects of Tanauan’s lost fishing boats. The area’s fishing economy has certainly taken a blow since Typhoon Haiyan hit, and local market keepers are having to get fish from out of town in order to supplement what Obaldo and other entrepreneurial fridge fishermen have been selling them.
By coming up with a simple idea of recycled use, Obaldo and his children have kept Tanauan afloat. All anglers could learn a little something from this resilient coastal town.
Watch this Reuters video with more on the story: