Target: Department of Agriculture, Philippines
Goal: Provide training and safety equipment for Pa-aling divers, who dive 40 meters deep to fish without oxygen tanks
Imagine putting your own life in peril several times each day in order to provide for your family. That’s the reality of being a Pa-aling diver in the Philippines. Pa-aling is a method of fishing, developed in the Philippines, that requires the diver to swim deep into the ocean and lower a net over the coral reef using his own body. As dangerous as is it to dive over 40 meters deep, these divers do not have adequate safety equipment. Unlike scuba divers, they do not have oxygen tanks; instead they use long tubes that are connected to rusty air compressors back on the boat. Not only do these divers breathe contaminated air, but the tubes can easily get tangled in one another or kinked, which is a recipe for disaster.
As the men approach the reef, they blow bubbles to push fish into the net. When there are enough fish in the net, the men slowly bring the ends of the net together to keep the fish inside. Returning to the surface with all the fish inside the net is nearly impossible. One man must agree to remain inside the net to keep it closed and swim up with it. This is an extremely dangerous act, as the man can get tangled inside the net and drown. Another danger these men face is Decompression Sickness (DCS), also known as “the bends.” DCS occurs when the divers attempt to swim to surface too quickly. This can result in joint pain, pressure headaches, paralysis, or death. Some divers face amputation as a result of paralysis.
Pa-aling diving in the Philippines was featured on BBC’s Human Planet series and described as “the most dangerous fishing method of all.” We must demand that these divers receive proper diving equipment to ensure their livelihood. Oftentimes the divers are the only member of their family who is providing monetary income. If they die, the family suffers immensely. We must provide adequate safety equipment for Philippine divers to ensure their survival.
Dear Philippine Department of Agriculture,
I am writing because I am concerned about the safety of pa-aling fisherman. These men perform perilous dives several times each day for the purpose of providing your country with fish. However, they do not have the adequate safety equipment necessary to accomplish these dives. Instead of an oxygen tank used by scuba divers, these men have thin tubes that are connected to rusty compressors on the boat. They breathe contaminated air and oftentimes the tubes get tangled in one another or bent, which results in severe injury or death.
In addition to the lack of safety equipment, these men are constantly subjected to the risk of Decompression Sickness, or “the bends.” Decompression Sickness occurs when the diver descends to the surface too quickly and it can result in joint pain, pressure headaches, paralysis, and death. These workers should have the right to adequate safety equipment and oxygen tanks to ensure their survival.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Jerry Reid via Wikimedia Commons