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The Philippines is a Southeast Asian country with access to some of the most unique marine life in the world. The Philippine islands are fortunate enough to have thousands of miles of coastline and plenty of beaches to explore underwater ecological life. Coral reefs thrive in this environment due to its prime location in the warm waters of the Pacific.
The Apo Reef in Puerto Galera, Mindoro and Verde Island Passage near Batangas are a couple famous reefs. The pristine waters that surround the Philippines are under continuous strain by both natural and man made threats. The coral reefs are quickly declining in size, which has affected marine wildlife as a whole.
Coral reefs are popularly known as the rain forests of the sea for hosting thousands of diverse animals. The actual structure of the reef is formed when corals secrete calcium carbonate. This slowly turns into large systems of housing and protection for fish — 25% of underwater species live and flourish in these coral reefs.
Thousands of different fish, crustaceans, worms, and sponges can be found within its structures. Coral reefs are mainly found in tropical areas of the world where water is warm and shallow. The coral reefs located off the coast of the Philippines are part of a larger system known as the coral triangle.
This wide triangle stretches from the Philippines to Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Malaysia, and the Solomon Islands. There are over 2,000 types of fish in the Philippines alone. The reefs in the Philippines have been suffering for the past 30 years. An overwhelming 97% of the coral reefs in the country are threatened.
This is due mostly because of harmful human activities. Disruptive fishing tactics are a main reason for the negative impact on this ecosystem. The majority of Filipinos live very close to the ocean and have used its natural resources for centuries. Fish and seafood are a healthy and common part of the Filipino diet.
Over-fishing practices have threatened marine wildlife. Cyanide poisoning has harmed the reefs dramatically. Since the 1960’s, over one million kilograms of cyanide poisoning has been sprayed over the Philippine coastlines. Fishermen have been able to obtain large live reef catches, which has become a $1 billion annual industry.
The Philippines is one of the only countries in Southeast Asia to take positive strides to combat dangerous cyanide poisoning. The government has created the Cyanide Fishing Reform Program in collaboration with the International Marinelife Alliance. The program’s main purpose is to educate local fishermen on other proper fishing techniques, instead of using cyanide poisoning to catch fish.
Fishermen learn how to use wide scaled nets and different hook and line techniques, in order for them to protect the area’s waters from poison. The country’s population increase has also played a role in the declining amount of healthy coral reef. Only about 5% of the reef in the country is considered to be in good condition.
The reefs are suffering because of pollution. With much of the country’s population lives near the ocean, pollution easily runs off into the water and destroys the reefs. Aside from the destructive human impact on the reefs, an unavoidable natural weather pattern has had an impact.
El Nino destroyed 20% of the reefs and caused coral bleaching. Global warming has become a negative influence on the coral structures. With the warming temperatures in the ocean, more algae are able to grow on top of the coral, which in turn blocks the amount of direct sunlight the coral receives. Survival becomes much harder without the sun.
A combination of harmful human activities and natural occurrences have severely damaged some of the most remarkable coral reefs. Widespread education campaigns in schools across the country teach children the importance of keeping the natural reefs clean.
Organizations including The Planetary Coral Reef Foundation and the Coral Reef Foundation are available for people to donate time or money to help make sure the coral reefs in the Philippines, and around the world, don’t disappear forever.