The annual Saving Philippine Reefs Expedition assessed the condition of the coral reefs in Siquijor Island Province and Apo Island, Negros Oriental, in March 2009. Surveys were conducted at selected sites and updated information from surveys in 2002, 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008. In 2009, live hard coral (LHC) for all seven sites ranged from poor to good (14.1 ± 1.7% to 68.8 ± 5.8%). Comparison among sites in the 7 to 9 meter depth range gave a highly variable result. In this depth zone, Tubod Marine Sanctuary had the highest LHC, and Caticugan, the lowest. A total of 191 fish species in 48 families were observed in 2009, somewhat lower compared to the previous years. Butterflyfish species counted was 25 which is the same as in 2002.
Fish abundances for 2009, when compared between years within each site were significantly higher in two sites, namely Lower Cabancalan and Apo Island sanctuaries. The other sites showed similar fish abundance compared to the last survey.
The status of coral reefs of Siquijor Island has improved since 1980 when surveys were first conducted in the Island. Such improvement can be attributed to the implementation of MPAs, and the commencement of coastal resource management programs within each municipality and at the provincial level. The survey in 2009 indicates that the coral reefs in Siquijor are stable and improving in several sites in relation to the degree of
protection and management in individual MPAs. But, fish abundances are still low by Philippine coral reef standards due to continued and in some cases increased fishing pressure near MPAs. In addition, commercial scale fishing occurs within the 15 km limits of the island which draws down the biomass of fish in nearshore waters.
A few key recommendations for improved habitat conservation and management of MPAs on Siquijor Island include the need to:
- Establish more and larger MPAs;
- Improve coastal fisheries law enforcement;
- Share monitoring and evaluation information among all stakeholders;
- Continue monitoring for sustained management;
- Increase diver, boat operator, and visitor education;
- Do more research in fisheries to be conducted for the benefit of reef management; and
- Form a Siquijor MPA Network management plan and association.