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The Philippine coral reef area, the second largest in Southeast Asia, is estimated at 26,000 square kilometers and holds an extraordinary diversity of species. Scientists have identified 915 reef fish species and more than 400 scleractinian coral species, 12 of which are endemic.

A large coastal population, rapid population growth of about 2.3 percent per year, high poverty rates, and fisher overcapacity have resulted in major overexploitation of Philippine reef fisheries. Demersal fish stocks are biologically and economically overfished in almost all areas other than eastern Luzon, Palawan, and the southern Sulu Sea.

Destructive fishing techniques are thought to be the largest contributor to reef degradation in the Philippines. Muro-ami, a technique that involved sending a line of divers to depths of 10-30 m with metal weights to knock on corals in order to drive fish out and into waiting nets was extremely damaging to reefs, leading to its ban in 1986. Rampant blast fishing and sedimentation from land-based sources have destroyed 70 percent of fisheries within 15 square kilometers of the shore in the Philippines, which were some of the most productive habitats in the world. Although increased enforcement, larger penalties, and educational campaigns slowed the damage in the 1990s, many fishers have brought destructive practices to new areas. Reports indicate that many operations have shifted to more remote, pristine areas such as the Palawan group of islands, the Sulu Archipelago, parts of the Visayas, and western Mindanao.

Coastal development, agriculture, aquaculture, and land-cover change threaten many Philippine coral reefs. Over 80 percent of original tropical forests and mangroves in the Philippines have been cleared, increasing sediment outflow onto reefs. Mangroves continue to be cut and the areas converted to fish ponds, a change that allows more nutrients and sediment to reach reefs. Domestic and industrial wastes are rarely treated in the Philippines and are often discharged into the sea.

The first ever mass-bleaching event in the Philippines was reported in 1998-99. It began at Batangas, off Luzon, in June 1998 and then proceeded nearly clockwise around the Philippines, correlating with anomalous sea-surface temperatures. Most reefs of northern Luzon, west Palawan, the Visayas, and parts of Mindanao were affected. Subsequent mortalities were highly variable, with decreases in live coral cover ranging from 0.7 to 46 percent and up to 80 percent in Bolinao.

In the late 1970s, the most extensive survey of coral reefs conducted in the Philippines showed widespread human impact on the reefs. The Inventory of the Coral Resources of the Philippines (ICRP) found only about 5 percent of reefs to be in excellent condition, with over 75 percent coral cover (both hard and soft).

More recent surveys in 1997 found a slightly lower percentage of reefs to be in excellent condition. They found only 4 percent of Philippine reefs in excellent condition (i.e., over 75 percent hard or soft coral cover), 28 percent in good condition (50-75 percent coral cover), 42 percent in fair condition (25-50 percent coral cover), and 27 percent in poor condition (less than 25 percent coral cover). The Visayas have experienced the most significant decline in coral cover, exhibiting an average of only 11 percent hard coral cover. Coral status information for Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago is limited.

The RRSEA model suggests that overfishing and destructive fishing are the most severe threats to coral reef health. Over 80 percent of Philippine reefs are threatened by overfishing, although this figure is likely to be an underestimate because it only accounts for nearshore fishing pressures. The model’s mapping of areas at risk from blast fishing and fishing with poisons suggests that over 70 percent of Philippine reefs continue to be at risk from these practices. In addition, coastal development pressures threaten over 40 percent of Philippine reefs, and about 35 percent of reefs are under pressure from sedimentation and pollution associated with land-use changes. When the various threats from human activities are combined, the model estimates that 98 percent of Philippine reefs are at risk from human activities, with 70 percent at high or very high risk.

Government agencies managing coral reefs in the Philippines are generally understaffed and insufficiently funded for effective management and monitoring of coral reefs. Many laws and regulations concerning coral reefs already exist, including bans on cyanide fishing, blast fishing, and the collection or export of hard (Scleractinia) corals. For the most part, though, these laws are not adequately enforced. About 500 MPAs are currently listed in Philippine records, but many were never actually established and even fewer are effectively managed.] The Philippine government has actively encouraged local management of reefs, and there have been some outstanding success stories.


1 . Fish data from W.Y. Licuanan and E.D. Gomez, Philippine Coral Reefs, Reef Fishes, and Associated Fisheries: Status and Recommendations To Improve Their Management (Cape Ferguson: Australian Institute of Marine Science, 2000), p. 4; coral data from Wilkinson, Status of Coral Reefs of the World: 2000, p. 120.

2. Chou Loke Ming, "Status of Southeast Asian Coral Reefs," in C. Wilkinson, ed., Status of Coral Reefs of the World: 1998 (Cape Ferguson: Australian Institute of Marine Science, 1998), p. 83.

3. M. Spalding, C. Ravilious, and E.P. Green, World Atlas of Coral Reefs (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001), p. 283.

4. Chou, "Status of Southeast Asian Coral Reefs," p. 84.

5. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), "Fishery Country Profile: The Philippines," http://www.fao.org/fi/fcp/fcp.asp (September 20, 2001).

6. Chou, "Southeast Asian Reefs-Status Update," p. 124.

7. Chou, "Status of Southeast Asian Coral Reefs," p. 84.

8. Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) et al., "International Coral Reef Initiative Country Report: Philippines," paper presented at the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI) Regional Workshop for East Asia, Cebu, Philippines, April 2-4, 2001, p. 10.

9. Licuanan and Gomez, Philippine Coral Reefs, Reef Fishes, and Associated Fisheries, (Cape Ferguson: Australian Institute of Marine Science, 2000), p. 16.

10. M.F.B. Divinagracia, "Extent and Degree of Coral Bleaching in Selected Reefs in Central Visayas, Philippines," thesis for the degree of Master of Science in Biology, Siliman University, Philippines (2000); Licuanan and Gomez, Philippine Coral Reefs, Reef Fishes, and Associated Fisheries, p. 16.

11. E.D. Gomez, "Coral Reef Ecosystems and Resources of the Philippines," Canopy International 16, 5 (1991): 1, 6-7, 10-12.

12. Licuanan and Gomez, Philippine Coral Reefs, Reef Fishes, and Associated Fisheries, pp. 2-7.

13. Licuanan and Gomez, Philippine Coral Reefs, Reef Fishes, and Associated Fisheries, p. 16.

14. DENR et al., "International Coral Reef Initiative Country Report: Philippines," p. 8.

15. Spalding, Ravilious, and Green, World Atlas of Coral Reefs p. 284.

Corals (not rare, threatened or endangered but still prohibited for trade

Precious Corals red, pink, and white corals
Semi-precious corals black corals
Corals all kinds of coral other than precious and semi-precious corals


Examples of prohibited corals:

Name (Scientific Name)
Mushroom coral (Heliofungia sp. )
Slipper coral (Herpolitha sp.)
Bowl coral (Sandalolitha sp.)
Branch coral (Acropora sp.)
Lace coral (Pocillopora sp.)
Bird's nest coral (Seriatopora sp. )
Vase cora(Pachyseris sp.)
Pagoda coral (Turbinaria sp)
Crust or branch coral(Montipora sp.)
Moon coral (Favia sp.)
Precious coral (Corallium sp.)
Black coral (Antipathes sp.)
Organ pipe coral (Tubipora musica)
Denim coral (Heliopora sp)
Sea fan coral (Melithaea sp.)
Anemone coral (Xenia sp.)
Asparagus coral (Lemnalia sp.)

For more information, visit Reefs at Risk in Southeast Asia.

Source: http://biodiv.wri.org/pubs_content_text.cfm?ContentID=107

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