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NEARLY 80 percent of Philippine coral reefs are under high or very high threat mostly due to overfishing and destructive fishing, which affects 98 percent of reefs, a study by a global environmental think tank showed.
The World Resources Inc. released the Reefs at Risk Revisited in the Coral Triangle report during the International Coral Reef Symposium in Cairns, Australia. The study was developed by WRI in collaboration with the USAID-funded Coral Triangle Support Partnership.
Some areas in the Philippines are part of the Coral Triangle, along with Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Timor-Leste. The Coral Triangle is the global center of marine biological diversity, containing 76 percent of all coral species and 37 percent of coral reef fishes in the world.
The study said almost all reefs in the Philippines are threatened by overfishing and destructive fishing (98 percent), coastal development (almost 60 percent), watershed-based pollution primarily from agricultural runoff and erosion of deforested slopes (almost 60 percent), and marine-based pollution (6 percent).
“When the influence of recent thermal stress and coral bleaching is combined with local threats, nearly 80 percent of reefs are rated at high or very high threat, with over half in the very high threat category,” it said.
The WRI study showed that only 7 percent of the Philippine reefs are inside marine protected areas. It said that enforcement and compliance with fishing regulations remain a challenge in the country although there are “encouraging signs of improvement.”
It said the Philippines has 22,500 sq km of coral reef area, or 9 percent of the global total, making it the country with the third largest reef area in the world, next to Australia and Indonesia.
A total of 464 species of hard corals, 1,770 species of reef fish, and 42 species of mangroves have been recorded in the country. Philippine reefs produce 5 to 37 tons of fish per sq km, and about a million small-scale fishers are directly dependent on reef fisheries.
“Overall, the harvest rate of Philippine fisheries is approximately 30 percent higher than the maximum sustainable yield, which will likely trigger stock collapses in the absence of increased management,” WRI said.
The study showed that the findings in the Philippines also holds true in the Coral Triangle region, where the threats to coral reefs are higher at 60 percent compared to the global average of 45 percent.
When the influence of thermal stress and coral bleaching is combined with local threats such as overfishing, the percent of reefs in the region that are rated as threatened rises to more than 90 percent.
WRI said by 2030, almost all reefs in the Coral Triangle Region are projected to be threatened, with 80 percent in the high, very high, or critical categories. By 2050, the percentage of threatened reefs will increase to more than 90 percent.
To give the reefs of the Coral Triangle region time to recover, WRI’s recommendations included the reduction of unsustainable fishing, management of coastal development, reduction of watershed-based pollution, reduction of marine-based pollution and damage, enhancement of reef resilience, development of integrated management efforts at ecosystem scales, scaling up international collaboration, and supporting climate change efforts.
Written by REGINA BENGCO