IYOR/ICRI Palawan Philippines Resurvey (fwd)
Coral Health and Monitoring Program
coral at aoml.noaa.gov
Mon Nov 25 07:35:04 EST 1996
Forwarded message. If you wish to respond, please do so to Gregor, or to
the list. Thanks...
---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Sun, 24 Nov 1996 20:30:42 +0800 (HKT)
From: gregorh at hk.super.net
To: Coral Health and Monitoring Program <coral at aoml.noaa.gov>
Subject: IYOR/ICRI Palawan Philippines Resurvey
I have just returned from a resurvey of coral reefs in Bacuit Bay, El
Nido, Palawan. I originally surveyed these reefs in 1985/86 as summarized
in Global Aspects of Coral Reefs (Ginsburg, 1993). Below I give a very
brief summary of the qualitative results which are pertinent to the recent
posts on Philippine reefs.
Bacuit Bay is an official Marine Reserve. The resident human population
(22,000) is still relatively low compared to other areas of the
Philippines. Following our study of the value of logging versus tourism
and fisheries (Hodgson and Dixon, 1989), Palawan banned commercial
logging. In addition, the Dept. of Natural Resources has taken a hard line
on slash and burn agriculture. Enforcement of both regulations has clearly
Logged, and old slash and burn areas have new vegetative cover. The coral
reefs previously damaged by sedimentation in 1996 appear to have recovered
To balance this encouraging news, the marketable marine resource
populations have been decimated by small-scale artisanal overfishing.
Previously common organisms such as Tridacna are now rare, and of small
sizes only, while lobster, Trochus, green snails and edible holothurians
are gone. Where previously there were large specimens of grouper,
sweetlips, parrotfish, bumphead wrasse etc, there are now a small number
of small-sized animals -- even at the most remote dive spots.
I interviewed a number of new immigrant fishermen from neighboring
provinces. They had left their home provinces due to a lack of fish
stocks. They were already experiencing serious difficulties catching
sufficient fish in Palawan, and were fully expecting the situation to
deteriorate quickly. Dynamite fishing occurs (two fishermen were blown up
while I was there) but was not yet common. Cyanide fishing was reportedly
There are two explanations for the rapid loss of fisheries stocks:
1) Exponential population growth of local residents from 11,600 in 1980 to
22,000 in 1995 creating a large increase in local demand for fish.
2) The establishment of an exporter in the town who can operate due to the
availability of ice, and increased wealth of people in Manila who can now
afford to pay for fish shipped on ice from the province. 15-20
tonnes/month of iced fish alone, not counting dried.
There are a number of NGOs and Government departments working in El Nido,
however, they do not appear to be working together. There is no attempt
being made to control fishing other than trawling. This strategy needs to
This location is relatively isolated -- there is no road access most of
the year. Fish stocks were previously plentiful. If a Marine Reserve
cannot successfully be managed in El Nido where the human population
density is relatively low, what are the chances for success in other
places? The excellent condition of the corals themselves shows that
controlling land use can successfully prevent damage to marine resources.
But the result is, borrowing Bob Ginsburg's analogy, a city under the sea
HK University of Science and Technology
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