From April 4-6, BlueClam team visited the University of the Philippines (UP) Bolinao Marine Science Laboratory
, located about six hours north of Metro Manila on the northern tip of the Pangasinan peninsula.
Bolinao Marine Science Laboratory
|UP Bolinao Marine Science Laboratory|
The University of Philippines Bolinao Marine Science Laboratory (http://www.msi.upd.edu.ph/?page_id=162).
Bolinao, Region I, Philippines
Much Dr. Ronald Villanueva’s
research has focused on the ability of artificial structures, often in the form of “reef balls”, to sustainably “recruit” corral life. These structure hopefully would help countervail on-going pressures on healthy reefs in the Philippines (over fishing/harvesting, notably through destructive methods like blast fishing and cyanide; climate change/volatility). The question is under which circumstances do these initiatives work?
BML also clearly recognizes that environmental conservation cannot take place without appropriate attention to the livelihoods of surrounding communities. It therefore maintains a proactive program of education and extension efforts
to promote sustainable mariculture initiatives to off-set pressures on local reef systems.
It was only fitting that our first dive after choosing the name BlueClam for the site was the giant clam nursery. The Giant Clam Project was initiated in the mid-eighties, and the sights are truly impressive. Our Marine Species function will provide more details on the Tridacna gigas.
But we were convinced that this species is indeed a great mascot of the health of coastal reefs in the Philippines.
Our second dive was to the Sea Grass Reserve. Sea Grass
plays a critical role in the coastal ecosystem, but is also especially vulnerable to the ecological pressures confronting the Philippines. For those of us more used to diving traditional reef structures, the field was quite magical!
The next day we dove a series of reef sites, each with differing histories of ecological pressures. Our last dive was located in a Marine Protected Area (MPA), and did manifest at least through visual anecdotes a higher concentration of fish life. However this MPA would clearly not have been a success without all of the broader things that were happening in the community. As Alfonso our boatman noted, even though the community had largely curtailed destructive blast fishing, boats from outside the community still encroached on the area. The good news however that some enforcement was taking place, with one boat having been recently impounded for blast fishing in the municipality.
We also saw a series of plates from previous experiments on recruiting new life. Clearly each setting across the Philippines is different, but our visit indeed convinced us that a burgeoning efforts to put various need structures in place to seed reef life can greatly benefit from the kind of practical research being done by entities such as BML.
To wrap-up our visit, in the Hatchery we saw a number of on-going experiments. Clearly what was happing on-shore should have important lessons for what will happen down-below, including as viewed by recreational divers who can indulge in the Philippine’s incredible diverse but fragile reef life.
A series thanks to all the BML staff
for their hospitality, especially Dr. Villanueva, Cha, Shielameh, and Alfonso the Boatman. We were impressed by their work, and look forward to a return visit!