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 
not common. 

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 
be re-examined. 


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 
without people. 

Gregor Hodgson 
Research Centre 
HK University of Science and Technology 

More information about the Coral-list-old mailing list