Donsol’s Shrimp Fishermen

Donsol, Sorsogon, Philippines

The town of Donsol in Sorsogon is agreeably more known for the whale sharks that abound in the area. However, it is hard not to notice as well these men scattered out in the water during sundown with their big, wide nets. They are ‘shrimp farmers’ – fishermen collecting shrimp by dragging the net at the bottom of the ocean and sorting through the algae by lifting the huge thing up to their waist. On their backs are plastic containers where they throw the shrimp in. They do this for a few hours, going back and forth, and in one evening, they can harvest one to two kilos of mid-sized shrimp.

We decided to stay in Donsol for a few days more after our whale shark adventure. I knew there were some small fishing communities in the area and I wanted to see if I might be able photograph one while we were there. During our first day in town, I went around on the beach talking to people and visiting some of the fishermen in the area. As I continued along I noticed some large nets in the distance. Then I saw the nets move up and down and was not sure what was going on. I asked a man sitting on the beach and he told me they were fishing for shrimp. I knew there were shrimp fishermen in the area, but I had no idea this is how they fished for them. This looked too cool, so I asked him if the fishermen would get upset if I went out into the water to take a closer look. He told me it wouldn’t be a problem, but that I should be careful because my bag might get wet. The sun was going down so I made my way out to them as fast as I could.

When I reached the four or five fishermen out in the water I saw that they were dragging the nets along the bottom of the ocean collecting the algae. They would then pick through the algae and collect the small shrimp. The way they were collecting the shrimp fascinated me and I wanted to know more. I asked one of the fishermen if I could come back the next day and he invited me to visit the community to see more. We ended up staying for a few days getting to know some of the community members and seeing how they lived. This particular barangay uses the shrimp for food and as bait to fish for larger fish. Hope these photographs will give you a good idea of what these fishermen do.

Once the sun goes down the fishermen use headlamps to collect the shrimp. We were told that the larger shrimp come out at night. Below, a group of fishermen from this barangay heading out at dusk.

Seahorses are often caught in the nets. This was a dried out one that was kept as a souvenir by one of the fishermen.

Men fixing all the small holes in the nets. This must be done everyday so the shrimp do not fall through.

The small shrimp that are gathered are either used for cooking or for bait to catch larger fish. In the above photo, the shrimp are being used as bait. They are attached to this longline style of fishing gear that has over 1000 hooks. Below, community member watch as the fishermen prepare their nets prior to heading out.

Life in this fishing village is downright poor and difficult. The number of children is probably higher than that of adults. However, they have learned to accept life as it is for them, at least for now. No doubt that they harbor for a better life somewhere especially for their offspring, but you can tell they are thankful for what is provided day to day. It was a nice few days that we were able to spend with this community. I hope to make it back and see them all again.

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