This year’s Earth Hour Philippines will help Filipino fishermen affected by Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) get back to sea in brand new fiberglass boats.

The annual 60-minute switch-off of lights and appliances will take place as usual on March 29 from 8:30 pm to 9:30 pm, but this time, organizer World Wide Fund for Nature has added a new crowd-funding platform for environmental causes called Earth Hour Blue.

One of the featured causes is a project that aims to provide 60 fiberglass boats to fishermen in Eastern Visayas and Northern Palawan by mid-April. The initiative will cost US$24,000, an amount to be raised using the online platform.

Yolanda, which hit the Philippines on Nov 8, 2013, destroyed at least 30,000 wooden boats or bancas, depriving around 145,000 fisherfolk of their livelihoods, according to WWF-Philippines.

With the support of donors, the project hopes to provide boat molds, materials and training to selected fishing communities who will then be able to build their own boats.

“By enhancing the traditional banca design and providing fisherfolk with the resources to build new boats, we will minimize our growing dependence on local and foreign aid,” according to WWF-Philippines CEO Lory Tan.

Benefits of fiberglass boats

Fiberglass is a type of plastic reinforced by the fibers of glass. It’s known to be a lightweight, extremely strong and durable material.

Compared to wooden boats, fiberglass boats are lighter, easier, faster and cheaper to build and maintain – with repairs as simple as patching up cracks and holes with epoxy or fiberglass. Unlike wood, fiberglass is completely watertight and does not expand when wet.

It also takes less time to build a fiberglass boat since construction only involves the use of a mold. Up to 20 boats can be made from a single mold. The mold can also be modified by the fishermen based on designs that would suit them best.

Aside from helping fishermen pursue their livelihood, fiberglass boat-making technology is also environment-friendly.

The use of fiberglass will lessen the use of hardwood trees to make boats. It will also lessen the likelihood of over-fishing in the area because the boats are designed to be less than 20 feet in length and will be propelled mainly by sails or paddles thereby promoting small-scale fishing.