TUBBATAHA, the Philippines’ only national marine park, is home to about 600 species of fish and some 359 species of corals, or half the world’s coral species.
No thanks to a grounded US vessel, Tubbataha is now in terrible pain.
Efforts to extricate the minesweeper USS Guardian might not be completed until March 23, or in the next five weeks yet.
Last Jan. 17, the USS Guardian ran aground off Tubbataha Reef, damaging an estimated 4,000 square meters of the heritage site. That is more than a third of what until now seemed like a paradise called Tubbataha.
In July 2010, PCIJ Multimedia Director Ed Lingao and then PCIJ Multimedia Deputy Director Justine Espina-Letargo visited with the park rangers who are guarding 10,000 hectares of the Tubbataha coral reefs.
Thousands of years ago, these were really volcanic islands fringed by reefs. Over time, the islands sank and left only the reef formations that continued to grow upward, toward the sunlight.
Tubbataha is 130 kilometers from Cagayancillo in the north, and 150 kilometers from the provincial capital, Puerto Princesa, in the northwest.
The Reefs lie at the heart of the so-called Coral Triangle, a 647.5 million-hectare area spanning from the Philippines in the north to Australia in the south, and Fiji in east, which is said to have the highest diversity of corals, fish, crustaceans, and plant species in the world.
A 2007 study by the University of the Philippines in the Visayas determined that the Tubbataha Reefs are “a major source of coral and fish larvae, seeding the greater Sulu sea.”
In layman’s terms, it simply means that Tubbataha, Samal dialect for “long reef exposed at low tide,” is a giant fish factory that populates the rest of the seas around the Philippines and much of the region.
For those who love figures, it is home to about 600 species of fish and some 359 species of corals, or half the world’s coral species.
Read the PCIJ report, “Predators now protectors of Tubbataha marine park,” here.