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RP is center of marine fish biodiversity in world

October 6, 2009 – 2:57 am

Source: PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER, June 8, 2006

Reef may be the largest, most famous dive site in the world, but those who brave adverse travel advisories to delve deep into Philippine waters have the best bragging right, after all.

The Philippines is the center of marine fish biodiversity and the home of the most diverse marine ecosystem in the world, a recent study by American biologists Kent Carpenter and Victor Springer revealed.

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The study, titled “The Center of the Marine Shore Fish Diversity: The Philippine Islands,” was published last year in the Environmental Biology of Fishes Journal No. 72 and cited in the latest Philippines Environment Monitor (PEM) published by the World Bank.

“We marvel at the Great Barrier Reef, but did you know that a group of some 100 scientists has said that the Philippines is the center of marine biodiversity in the world?” former Environment Secretary Elisea Gozun said in her presentation of the status of the country’s coastal and marine resources at the Philippine Plaza Hotel yesterday.

Before the publication of Carpenter’s and Springer’s study, Wallace in Indonesia was considered the center of marine biodiversity in the world, but a closer look revealed that central Philippines had a “higher concentration of species per unit area than anywhere else in Indonesia.”

Following the Philippines in marine biodiversity concentration and endemism are Malaysia, Sumatra and Australia, respectively.

Second Largest Reef

Most of the endemic species in the Philippines are found in the Verde Island Passage between Mindoro and Luzon.

The Philippines also has the second largest reef in the world, the 34-km Apo Reef located 24 km west of Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro, and 33 km northeast of the Calamian Group of Islands in northern Palawan, according to Gozun.

The status and management of the country’s coastal and marine resources were presented to government officials, environmental organizations and the media during the national forum on sustainable development of coastal and marine resources yesterday.

World Ocean Day

The Philippines joins the celebration of World Ocean Day today with a reiteration of the Philippines’ commitment to the Putrajaya Declaration forging an Integrated Coastal Management among Southeast Asian countries.

“In this part of the world, particularly, the seas of East Asia provide a significant portion of the region’s economic base, with a larger portion of the economic activities in the coastal cities,” Nileema Noble, United Nations Development Program resident representative, said in a speech in the same forum.

About 10 million fisher folk and 50 million people are dependent on the region’s seas for their livelihood, Noble said.

Using data from the PEM 2005, Gozun said that the Philippines’ 26,000 sq km of coral reefs contribute $1.064 billion annually to the Philippine economy through direct and indirect services such as fisheries and tourism.

“When your area is being promoted as a tourism site, you have no alternative but to protect it, or you can kiss your investments goodbye,” Gozun said, addressing the local officials at the forum.

Most Threatened

She said that while the Philippines were the center of marine biodiversity, it also has the region’s most threatened coral reefs, sea grass beds and mangroves.

Ninety-eight percent of the country’s reefs are threatened while 70 percent of mangroves have been lost or converted to fish ponds in the past 70 years.

“Compared to other countries with similar coastal resources, the Philippines appear to be using its coastal resources in very inefficient manner,” Gozun said.

The country has 64 provinces and 832 municipalities along its 36,289-km coastline.