Last week I departed on a two-week journey to the Philippines to help facilitate an intensive training with the Philippines Department of Environment and Natural Resources, National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration and United States Agency for International Development to enhance the Philippines marine protected area network. Based on WILDCOAST’s experience in California, Mexico and Cuba, I was asked to be a facilitator, with a group of local mentors, to train over 60 MPA managers from across the Philippine archipelago.
The Philippines, considered the center of the center of global marine biodiversity, is at the apex of the Coral Triangle, which spans 2.3 million square miles of ocean between Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Timor-Este. The region is home to over 75% of the world’s known coral species, 3,000 species of fish, 15 species of seagrasses and the world’s greatest extent of mangroves.
Threats to marine ecosystems in the Coral Triangle include overfishing, unplanned coastal development, land reclamation and dynamite fishing. Fortunately, over 1,160 local and national MPAs in the Philippines protect approximately 190 square miles of marine habitat. It is the scaling up of these MPAs, into a connected national network that brings me to the Philippines.
A network of MPAs, as opposed to individually managed protected areas, is much more effective at rebounding fisheries and restoring ecosystem health. That is what makes California’s MPAs so critical. It is a network with 124 protected areas, that function together to protect one of the world’s most important productivity and biodiversity ocean regions.
The Philippines, at least the small pieces I have seen, are beautiful. The people are among the friendliest I have ever encountered. I am so excited to share my experiences with our new partners in the Philippines and even more so, bring new knowledge from the Coral Triangle to California, Mexico, Cuba, and beyond.
Hiking on Palaui Island in the far north of the Philippines Archipelago.