Friday, 22 June 2012
No.27 Come fly with me through rainbow jungle….
Coral Cay must be the luckiest NGO this side of Bohol, for I have never seen such a beautiful reef! Going under the water here is like flying through a rainbow jungle…corals of every shape and size cover the sea floor, sponges form tubes and barrels, giant clams smile at you from hidden crevices, fish swim around you like small tornados and nudi’s flash their bare naked flesh at you, flesh that’s so vibrant you can’t quite believe it’s real! I know right, who knew slugs could be this sexy?!
Nestled within Sogod Bay and hugging the coast, Coral Cays base lies a mere stone’s throw from the shore. The house reef, which lies just meters from the base is a divers dream and is a Marine Protected Area (MPA). That means no fishing and divers must pay for the privilege to dive here. MPA’s are designed to give fish stocks the opportunity to recover-a chance for them to reproduce thus encouraging the re-population of areas within and outside the protected area. They also have the potential of creating income through eco-tourism by charging divers a small fee in order to dive here. MPA’s are so important here. In fact for a country lying with the Coral Triangle, they are essential. The Coral Triangle is recognised as the global centre of marine biodiversity, and has even been dubbed the ‘Amazon of the seas’. Covering over 5.7 million square kilometres across Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Solomon Islands and the Timor-Leste, it is a biological resource that sustains the lives of over 120 million people. Making it all the more obvious why protecting areas within it is all the more important.
Unfortunately cyanide and dynamite fishing has not only stripped the sea of fish in the Philippines, but in some places it has actually completely destroyed entire reefs. Add to this areas that have been over-fished as well as those affected by pollution: rubbish, plastic and eutrophication (a process which see’s water bodies acquire excessive nutrients, usually form land run off) and you can see why it is so important to protect coral reefs here.
Coral Cay, work with the local government here in Sogod Bay to do just that. They encourage the protection of coral reefs, teach volunteers and locals how to conduct surveys in order to record the biodiversity, and generally big up coral reef protection. And while I’m yet to see their surveying in action-it seems most of their time is spend training volunteers….perhaps the best thing I’ve learnt about Coral Cay, thus far, is their enthusiasm to teach people about coral reefs. Their teaching is aimed at both volunteers and locals and while few surveys appear to be conducted due to the somewhat high turn over of volunteers, the knowledge volunteers and locals acquire on expedition really does inspire people to protect these amazing habitats.
Volunteers joining expedition are loaded with information about coral reefs…they learn the coral species, the corals lifeforms (shape…), they get clued up on the inverts that reside in the reef and they learn what seems like, over a hundred species of fish! For people who enjoy diving, but are a little lacking in species identification, CCC provides an excellent opportunity to get reef ready. And hell I’m not going to deny that. In the past two weeks I have learnt to identify many different corals:hard and soft…I’ve turned into somewhat of an algae ‘cynosure’, I hang out with giant porcupine fish, chill with puffers, spy on frog fish, marvel at ribbon eels, squeal at nudi’s, stay clear of scorpion and stone fish, fly with turtles and get high on salt water. It’s a dream. The house reef is the perfect learning ground – a reef so rich that one will never quite know everything living on it!
The exceptionally high biodiversity here in the Philippines, means there’s a lot to learn, and even more to protect. It is thought that around 1,000 reef fish species can be found here, throw in over 400 hard coral species, 200 species of seaweed and over 200 species of mollusc and you’ve really got quite the party going on. Yes quite the party.
In fact right now, there is no place I’d rather be than under the Philippine sea .…..