International Year of the Reef begins
By Albert Balbutin
In the midst of the olympics, another global event is underway but with far less pomp and pageantry than it deserves.
International Year of the Reef 2018 or IYOR 2018 launched officially in the Philippines last February 12 in Mandaluyong. Initiated by the 60+ country member International Coral Reef Initiative or ICRI.
View photos from the event on Haribon's Facebook page here.
DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu was one of the speakers during the IYOR 2018 launch, citing the large contribution of coral reefs to the country.
“Millions of Filipinos depend on coral reefs and other marine ecosystems for both food and income. Some of our major economic sectors such as fisheries, tourism, trade and transportation are dependent on these ecosystems,” shared Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Roy Climatu, who spoke during the launch.
Coral reefs in the Philippines provide economic benefits estimated at $1.1 billion per year according to the World Resources Institute. However, as to how long this might last has long been a main concern for scientists nationally and globally.
“The rate of decline is actually happening twice as fast as that of the rainforests. They have been continually degraded by overfishing, destructive fishing practices, marine pollution, including unsustainable tourism,” lamented Theresa Mundita Lim, Director of the Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) of the DENR.
“In addition to this are the emerging threats from the effects of climate change,” continued Lim.
The Philippines has shared a long history in the global effort to conserve corals being at the apex of the Coral Triangle, a marine region where 76% of the world’s corals reside.
The first national assessment of coral reefs in 1976 led to a formulation describing the different levels of condition for coral reefs in the country. The levels include "poor" or 0-24.9% of living coral cover remaining, "fair" or 25-49.9%, "good" or 50-74.9%, and "excellent" or 75-100%.
Today, only 5% of the Philippines’ total coral cover is regarded in excellent condition. Other studies have cited even less, all of which exacerbated by coral bleaching observed by both marine biologists and citizen scientists alike all over the country.
Though coral reefs only occupy less than 1% of the planet’s ocean floor, 25% of all marine species in the world can be found in coral reefs.
In 1981, Filipino scientists became the first to alarm the global coral reef science community on the threats to coral reefs, led by Dr. Edgardo D. Gomez, now National Scientist and professor emeritus at UP Diliman.
“We are not as well-endowed as some of the bigger countries, but we have contributed a lot of science [and] conservation efforts focusing on coral reefs and I think that is something we should be proud of,” said Gomez during his address in the IYOR 2018.
International Year of the Reef 2018 will continue throughout the year led by the DENR Coastal and Marine Division, also known as DENR Agos, in coordination with various NGOs and other civil society groups.
The Philippines is one of the eight founding members of the ICRI.
About Haribon Foundation
Haribon Foundation for the Conservation of Natural Resources, Inc. is a membership organization committed to nature conservation through community empowerment and scientific excellence. Hatched in 1972, it is the pioneer environmental organization in the Philippines. Haribon’s natural and social scientists work with communities and people from all levels governance to promote biodiversity conservation.