Tangkal means cage in the Cebuano dialect.

That’s what these fishpens are:

Tangkal "Puerto Princesa Harbor" Palawan

A tangkal in Puerto Princesa Harbor, as seen from the air.

Tangkal Double-Island Isugod Quezon Palawan

A tangkal near Double-Island, Barangay Isugod, Municipality of Quezon, Province of Palawan.

Tangkal Palawan

Another Tangkal near Double Island. The buoys mark seaweed nurseries.

Tangkals house three or four fishermen.

They spend the evening on a perch like this:

Tangkal Perch

Closeup of the fishermen's perch in a tangkal

When I visited Double-Island last March, I went out of my way to see how they harvested their fish.

Rod, the caretaker at Double-Island, and I woke up at 4 a.m. to join them. We tied our small banca to the bamboo scaffolding and tiptoed our way to the perch above.

There were four fishermen and each one of them took a corner. Each one turned a make-shift winch (made also of bamboo) and after many minutes of turning, the net rose. Inside were hundreds of tiny silver fish. Less than 10 years ago, they used to haul thousands, not hundreds, of fish, Rod told me.

Tangkal Leader

The leader of the three fishermen hoists the net.

Tangkal Fishermen

The three fishermen cooperate in lifting the net.

Tangkal Fishermen

It took 40 minutes to hoist the net.

I tried but could not take a photo of their catch. It was simply too dark and the flash was too glaring. Besides, earlier, I had nearly fallen into the water!

Fish Tangkal Net

Our share of the catch. It weighed less than five kilos.

At around 6 a.m., other fishermen started walking back to shore. This group worked another Tangkal.

Fishermen Net Tangkal

Three fishermen carrying their Tangkal catch to shore.

They didn’t catch much either–less than 15 kilos.

Tangkal Catch Net

This was the catch of these three fishermen.

Fish Basket Net Tangkal

That doesn't look like 15 kilos, don't you think?

There were about 10 Tangkals that night around Double-Island. About 10 years ago, Rod said, as many as 50 Tangkals crowded the same area. That’s a bad sign. The sea’s running out.


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