Saturday, May 14, 2011

Tubbataha Reef National Marine Park Destination Most Popular Tourism

Tubbataha Reef National Marine Park Amazing Sea, Coral And Fish
The Philippines' First inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1993 was the Tubbataha Reef National Marine Park. UNESCO recognized the site primarily for its importance to global biodiversity and as the most outstanding coral reefs in South East Asia. Consisting of two coral atolls covering an area of 33,200 hectares, it contains a very high density of marine species surpassing any reef of the same size anywhere in the world.

Tubbataha Reef National Marine Park in the Philippines has been a prime research site for scientists and conservationists. Seven permanent transect sites were set to be monitored annually from 1997 to 2000 using video and fish visual census techniques, although only three of the sites were considered for change through time analysis for benthic cover. From 1997 to 1999, mean live coral cover decreased by 24.9%; this was attributed to the coral bleaching of 1998. However, a 3.3% increase in live coral cover was found from 1999 to 2000 which could indicate recovery. Algal cover significantly increased from 1998 to 1999.

Tubbataha Reef National Marine Park

Despite the decrease in live coral cover, there was a 530% increase in mean total fish biomass from 1998 to 2000 in the three sites. Although this was not statistically significant when the analysis was extended to include all seven sites, there was a significant increase in mean total fish biomass. The increases in fish biomass and density could be due to the strict enforcement of the Marine Park as a “no take” zone.

The coral reefs of Tubbataha Reef National Marine Park have been surveyed since 1982 (White and Arquiza 1999). Many different organizations and academic agencies have visited and collected data in these two remote atolls in the Sulu Sea. Hypothesized to populate neighboring reefs with fish and coral larvae due to the prevailing currents in the Sulu Sea (Alcala 1993), Tubbataha Reef is a valuable resource to the country. Tubbataha is one of the last few reefs in the Philippines that is relatively intact and harbors an abundant and diverse association of organisms. In one survey alone, more than 300 coral species and at least 379 species of fish were recorded (White and Arquiza 1999).

Tubbataha Reef National Marine Park

A Tubbataha Protected Area Management Board (TPAMB) was established in July 1999 and as a result, the rules of the Park are now fully and strongly enforced by a composite team of Park rangers, using a new radar system and more chase boats. This has led to many improvements in the Park and has kept illegal fishers out. Fish populations were surveyed from 1998 to 2000 using the visual fish census modified from English et al. (2011) in all seven (100 m) permanent transect sites. For
each variety of fish encountered, the numbers and sizes were estimated. Biomass of fish assemblages were calculated based on Kulbicki et al. and ICLARM Fishbase and was standardized to metric tons per square kilometer. Data on fish density were standardized to density per square meter. A one-way ANOVA was used to test for changes between years. Biomass data was log transformed prior to analysis to ensure normality. Data sampling for the fish census was conducted also within
the summer months of March to May.

For the purpose of comparing the relationship of benthic cover and fish biomass, the mean total fish
biomass for three transect sites used in the survey of benthic communities were calculated. The estimated mean total fish biomass was 56.98, 128.92 and 302.09 metric tons per square kilometer (MT/ km2) for 1998, 1999 and 2000, respectively. This increase was not statistically significant (F=4.470, P = 0.065), nevertheless, this still represented a 530% increase in total fish biomass.

Tubbataha Reef National Marine Park

It was noted in 2000 that fish density was not comprised mainly of the smaller reef fishes such
as anthiases and damselfishes compared to the past years. It was observed that there were greater aggregations of larger fish species, such as more encounters with pelagic species. Total fish density in 2000 was still higher than in 1998. In support of this data, according to the Tubbataha report of Sulu Fund and CRMP, average fish density has increased by 26% since 1996 (White et al. 2000).
Compared to the past years, there were more larger commercially valuable fishes in 2000.

The monitoring of Tubbataha’s complex marine ecosystem found increases in fish populations and
decrease in live coral cover due to the bleaching event. This outcome is promising for the ecosystem’s conservation and is rewarding for conservation organizations that have worked to save this natural World Heritage Site. Tubbataha’s remoteness and relative resiliency to stresses compared to other reefs in the country sets its reputation for being the last marine frontier of the Philippines. Other
studies that explore this reef’s importance and connectivity to other reefs should be done to further expand knowledge to implement the appropriate management of the Park.


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