CEBU CITY, Philippines – 17 years after it became the Philippines' largest marine protected area, the Tañon Strait in the Visayas will finally have a conservation management plan.
From February 10 to 12, more than 400 local government officials, conservationists, scientists, fishermen, and resort owners are participating in the first summit that aims to harmonize local and national conservation policies to better protect the strait.
Most people don't know they've already been to Tañon Strait – whether for whaleshark-watching in Moalboal or for scuba diving with thresher sharks in Malapascua Island.
There are many things you might not know about one of the most important seascapes in the country. Read on to find out more.
1. It's the biggest marine protected area in the Philippines covering 521,018 hectares. It is 5 times larger than the more famous Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park (97,030 hectares).
2. It is located between Cebu Island and Negros Island and connects the Bohol Sea in the south and the Visayan Sea in the north. Though it is very narrow (27 kilometers-wide), its waters are deep reaching 500 meters.
3. Because of its size, Tañon Strait encompasses smaller but better known protected areas including the popular diving sites in Moalboal, Malapascua, Bantayan Island, Pescador Island, Mantalip Reef and more.
4. Tañon Strait is under the jurisdiction of the national government, two regions, 3 provinces, 42 coastal cities and towns, and 298 villages. Their overlapping and sometimes conflicting mandates have led to inconsistent and weak policies in conserving the seascape.
5. It became a protected area in 1998 through an executive order issued by then president Fidel Ramos.
6. There are 14 species of dolphins and whales in the strait. That's almost half of the 27 species of dolphins and whales in the entire Philippines. It is home to spinner dolphins, dwarf sperm whales, pygmy killer whales and spotted dolphins.
7. The rare chambered nautilus, giant diamond-backed squid and critically-endangered dugong can also be found in its waters.
8. It boasts 70 species of fish, 20 species of crustaceans, 26 species of mangroves, and 18,830 hectares of coral reef.
9. Its wealth is threatened by commercial fishing which is supposed to be illegal in the strait, destructive fishing methods, pollution from industrial establishments, and uncoordinated policies of stakeholders.
10. These threats have affected the number of fish thriving in the strait, which in turn, impacts the livelihood of 43,000 fisherfolk who depend on the protected area. If in the 1970s, they would catch 5 kilograms of fish a day, today they catch only around 2 kilograms. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.