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Marine Life in the Metropolis: Manila Ocean Park

Yesterday we visited the Manila Ocean Park, a stone throws from Rizal Park.  Should you find yourself in Manila, rather than diving or snorkeling beyond the city limits, this is a destination well worth visiting.

2013-04-13 Nemos

At the heart of the MOP is the Oceanoarium, hosting around 250 species.  For those interested in marine life identification, the exhibit provides brief summaries and interesting facts about the species on exhibit.  The summaries provide both english, tagalog, and scientific names.

2013-04-13 Puffer Fish


Don’t miss a corner tank in the Oceanoarium: real Manila Bay water contrasted with the filtered stuff in the rest of the tanks.  Environmental awareness hopefully starts at the capital’s doorstep.

2013-04-13 Manila Water

The Jellies exhibit has elements of Lounge Cool, with different background colors taking you back to the days of Lava Lamps!  There are a number of additional shows — look out for the basketball competing parrots — to make for a few entertaining and also instructional hours whatever the ages.


UP Bolinao Marine Laboratory (UP-BML) Fieldvisit

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

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UP Bolinao Marine Science Laboratory: 16.378739, 119.912124
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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
The purpose of the trip was to learn more about the facility’s research in marine conservation for the Philippines, notably as backed by scientific research. The resident head of the BSL, and his staff, provided an excellent overview of on-going marine research and conservation efforts.
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.

2012-04 Bolinao Clam & Diver

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.
2012-04 Bolinao Clam
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!
2013-04 Bolinao Seagrass
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.
2013-04 BML Lab
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!
2013-04 Recruitement