Tubbataha Reef (First of two parts)-A A +A
By Rox Peña
Thursday, January 31, 2013
THE Tubbataha Reef, one of the treasures of our rich natural environment, has been in the news lately. A United States Navy Vessel ran aground into this protected area damaging a portion of its fragile ecosystem. How the vessel veered into this supposedly restricted area is now the subject of investigation.
I’m sure many of us have heard or read about Tubbataha Reef but have no in-depth knowledge about its beauty and the vital role it plays in our marine environment. I did some research on this and I will now share them with you our dear readers. The information mentioned here can be read in full in the website www.tubbatahareef.org.
Located in the Sulu Sea, Philippines, Tubbataha Reef Natural Park is a 97,030-hectare Marine Protected Area in Palawan. It is located 150km southeast of Puerto Princesa City, at the heart of the so called Coral Triangle. Divers discovered Tubbataha in the late 1970s. It is recognized as one of the most remarkable coral reefs on our planet.
The name “Tubbataha” comes from the Samal language meaning “long reef exposed at low tide”. Before Tubbataha became well known, the Samal – seafaring people of the southern Philippines – would visit the reefs intermittently, according to their nomadic lifestyle.
Since Tubbataha Reef is far from habitable land and its two islets have no source of fresh water, it is seldom reached by nearby residents. However by the 1980s, increasing numbers of Filipino fishermen had motorized bangkas and were able to reach Tubbataha. Hence, the reefs of Tubbataha soon became a fishing destination with many using destructive techniques, such as cyanide fishing and dynamite fishing, to maximize catch.
In 1988, in response to a strong campaign by scuba divers and environmentalists, and with the endorsement of the Provincial Government of Palawan, then President Corazon Aquino declared Tubbataha as a national marine park – the first of its kind in the country.
The park contains roughly 10,000 hectares of coral reef, lying at the heart of the Coral Triangle - the global centre of marine biodiversity. Scientists have been visiting these reefs since the 1980s, and their research has shown that Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park is home to no less than: 600 species of fish, 11 species of sharks and 13 species of dolphins and whales, 360 species of corals (about half of all coral species in the world) 100 species of birds and Nesting Hawksbill & Green sea turtles.
(To be continued)
Published in the Sun.Star Pampanga newspaper on February 01, 2013.