40% of PH corals in 'poor' condition, says expert

By Anna Valmero

QUEZON CITY, METRO MANILA—Some 40 per cent of the Philippines’ coral was now assessed as “poor”–up from the previous 27 per cent, according to a report during the  Coral Triangle Initiative conference in Cairns Monday.

The health of coral areas is diminishing in the Philippines due to interdependent factors, said Dr Theresa Mundita Lim, director of the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB) at the Philippines Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

“It makes me cry,” she said.

The Philippines’ marine areas were blighted by challenges common to many South-East Asian countries–overfishing, bad fishing practices, oil spills, hazardous waste from industry and agriculture, and the growth of coastal populations, said Lim.

Due to environmental degradation, the Philippines has been identified as “one of 34 bio-diversity hotspots in the world” by Conservation International.

So how will the poor condition of the coral reefs affect the Philippines?

Prof. Terry Hughes of James Cook University, who also sits as Federation Fellow of ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, said that poor coral reefs will impact the country in terms of food security and sustainability.

Corals serve as nurseries of small fishes so they can grow and be mature for breeding and supplying brood stocks, said Hughes during his recent visit in the Philippines. Reefs serve as important to rebuild food webs and ensure sustainable fish supplies.

The lack of healthy reefs will make breeding of fish populations more difficult and their dispersal more narrow, thus accounting for lesser supply to meet the demands not only in the Philippines but in other countries that are part of the Coral Triangle.

Increasing strain on marine management is not helping conservation efforts either. To date, over 50 million Filipinos depend on “the coastal ecosystem” for food and livelihood. The fisheries sector represented 3.84 per cent of the national gross domestic product (GDP).

At least one million Filipinos are employed in the fisheries industry. They, however, are tagged to be the poorest sector in the country, with a poverty incidence of 41.4 percent, according to a report the National Statistical Coordination Board.

Moreover, fish remains to be the “principal form of protein” for Filipinos so overfishing and the decrease in fish populations will have effects on food security.

Lim identified four key areas of future research in the country, particularly the monitoring of “interactive impacts of government responses” through programs such as Marine Protection Areas, assessing their ecological, social and economic dimensions.

Assessment will be made of the “limits” to which resources could be used from coastal and marine resources, explained Lim.

There will also be further development of incentives to encourage payment for ecosystem services, as well as sustainable financing mechanisms dedicated to helping protect the marine environment.

***

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