I always admire people at the frontline, actively confronting the threats happening in their backyard. Most of these people, the nameless thousands brave men and women, can choose to ignore dynamite fishing that their neighbors are employing to get fish that is left for them after being raided by illegal commercial fishing, but they opt not to. They chose to go beyond their individual interests by actively campaigning to end activities that will jeopardize the future of their communities.

Two weeks ago, one among the thousands was brutally murdered in front of her children. She is Gerlie Menchie Alpajora, a wife, a mother, and an ocean defender.

Today, as we call for justice, we are paying our highest respects to Gerlie, and the countless others who have offered their lives in the name of a healthy planet, in their memory, we pledge our commitment to continue and fight for a healthy oceans.

We, the Network of Conservation Organizations, together with all the sustainable fisheries advocates were in great shock, anger and grief upon learning the tragic death of our conservation ally, Ms. Gerlie Menchie Alpajora.

We strongly condemn the murder of an advocate who stood up for her rights, her children’s, the local community and the future of the fishing industry, as part of her role as the secretary of the Sagnay Tuna Fishers Association organized by WWF-Philippines.

Authorities believe that the killing of Gerlie Menchie Alpajora is connected with her advocacy to fight against illegal fishing in Sagnay. There were already threats to her life but unfortunately these were not taken seriously.

We demand for the immediate action from our authorities to give justice to Gerlie  and the Alpajora’s Family. We urged all concerned agencies to intensify and expedite the investigation process and the filing of appropriate cases.

This tragedy reminds us all that the fight to combat Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported (IUU) Fishing is serious, absolutely necessary but can be life threatening. We reiterate the call for stakeholders to work together to protect our declining fish stocks, their habitats and our stewards. This clearly demonstrates that the illegal fishers are desperate, not only killing the fishery resources but also the people fighting so hard to protect them.

We commend the dedicated service of Ms. Alpajora and assure her and her bereaved family that her courage and sacrifice strengthen and inspire us to continue the fight to restore the abundance of our fisheries. This is not just for us but for our children who deserve a better tomorrow. She is indeed a True Hero of the Environment. We will not allow Ms. Alpajora’s sacrifice to be for naught. Threats to our seas continue to mount and we call for an increased visibility of our law enforcers in the protection of our vastly threatened resources, our people and our planet. 

WWF Philippines – Save Philippine Seas – Marine Wildlife Watch of the Philippines – Oceana Philippines –NGOs for Fisheries Reform – Bicol Consortium for Development Initiatives Inc. – Greenpeace Philippines – Tambuyog Development Center Inc. – Pangisda Pilipinas – PKSK (National Union of Rural Based Organizations – RARE Philippines

Ms. Gerlie Menchie Alpajora was brutally killed last July 29, 2015 in her home at Bongalonan, Sagnay, Camarines Sur.

Based on Police Report: “After careful analysis of the circumstances, the killing of Gerlie Menchie Alpajora has great connection with her work, particularly her advocacy against illegal fishing in her place.”

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Vince Cinches is Greenpeace Southeast Asia's Oceans Campaigner based in the Philippines. Follow his updates on Twitter via @vincecinches.