Illegal poaching threatening sea turtle populations
Globally, all seven known marine turtle species are declining or near extinction, mostly because of human actions. Five species of these sea turtles are found in the Philippines. Government-led conservation efforts of turtles and their eggs began in the early 1980s. With little funding, efforts were focused on educating communities aimed at protecting about 100 major nesting sites, including at Morong.
To assist with conservation efforts, a law in the Philippines was passed in 2001 to punish the trafficking of turtles and other endangered species. Despite this, turtle meat and eggs have remained a source of food and income for many people in poor fishing villages. They’re also highly prized around the world, are harvested for medicine and used in religious ceremonies and fashion.
As such turtle numbers are still declining according to Romeo Trono, who previously ran the Philippine government’s sea turtle conservation program. While some local communities have been educated, Chinese traders have emerged as the greatest threat, bringing boats close to Philippine islands and filling them with turtles bought from local poachers. Eleven Chinese fishermen were recently arrested for poaching more than 500 marine turtles last year and are on trial on the western Philippine island of Palawan. Given that the Philippines has over 7,000 islands and a small and poorly funded coast guard, policing this issue is going to be extremely challenging.
Update on coral reef recovery efforts in Typhoon damaged reefs
Insert image: 2016 March – update on coral reef recovery
CCEF with the support of UCF are continuing their coral reef recovery efforts in Apo Island Marine Sanctuary (AIMS) with the deployment of more fish habitats this month. The dome-shaped fish habitat modules were fabricated and designed by local Dive Rangers and carpenters of Apo Island from limestone rocks collected along the shore and cemented together.
It’s hoped these fish habitats will assist in the reef fish recovery process by increasing the habitat complexity and providing more space for reef fishes to hide. The coral cover of Apo Island Marine Sanctuary was once excellent (to 75% live hard coral cover) before it was decimated to less than 1 percent after typhoon Pablo hit the area in December 2012 (Reboton 2014). Reef fish abundance and biomass also declined four to five times compared to a year 2008 baseline (Maypa 2012, Maypa et al. 2016).
This project was supported by local fishers, dive resorts and the Silliman University Institute of Environmental and Marine Sciences (SUIEMS) in partnership with the Foundation for the Philippine Environment (FPE), Apo Island Protected Landscape and Seascape – Department of Environment and Natural Resources (AIPLS-DENR), the Coastal Conservation and Education Foundation (CCEF) and UNICO Conservation Foundation, under the project, ‘Coral reef Recovery in Typhoon-Damaged Reefs’.
These sites will be monitored over time to determine their effectiveness. Stay tuned for updates.
More extreme tropical cyclones expected for the Philippines
Tropical cyclones in the Philippines are becoming more extreme and causing greater amounts of devastation, a new study has shown. Geographers from the University of Sheffield have analysed annual data over the period from 1951 to 2013 which saw more hazardous tropical cyclones (above 150 kilometres per hour) were on the increase in recent years, with the northern island of Luzon frequently affected by these weather events and associated rainfall.
Previous research has suggested that the increase in the number of intense tropical cyclones could be due to rising sea-surface temperatures since the 1970’s as a result of climate change. However it is too early to draw conclusions that will influence tropical cyclone projections, so this remains an active part of research on extreme climate events.
According to the United Nations University (UNU) World Risk Report 2014, the Philippines is one of the most at-risk nations to dangers such as tropical cyclones, monsoon rains, earthquakes and tsunamis. Many large communities live in typhoon-prone regions and low-lying coastal zones. At least 6,300 people died in the Philippines in November 2013 as a result of Typhoon Haiyan, one of the strongest tropical cyclones ever recorded.
Researchers plan to use this analysis, published in the International Journal of Climatology, to help the country better adapt and become more resilient to extreme weather events and the challenges of climate change.
2016 Saving Philippine Reefs Annual Expedition – Coron, Palawan
The UCF team are starting to pack their bags in preparation for this year’s Saving Philippine Reefs Expedition. Along with other passionate water babies from around the world and our partners at the Centre for Coastal Conservation and Education Foundation, the team will carry out surveys which will help determine the present status of coral reef health in the vicinity of Sangat Island and Coron, Palawan.
The monitoring data collected will be used in comparison to baseline data collected in 2006 as the basis in future monitoring of the status of coral reefs using similar methods that have been applied in various dive sites. The expedition results will support the current management of the Sangat Reserve and other marine protected areas in the Coron and Busuanga Islands and indicate effectiveness of protection from illegal fishing and improper tourism activities in the area. Stay tuned for the results and the fab pics.