As you may know by now, the Philippines sits in the heart of the Coral Triangle. Coral reefs are an absolute dream for marine life, from larger species that visit to spawn, to small fish and invertebrates that call the reef home. These shallow waters are a hotbed for biodiversity, and the world is so much better with healthy reef systems around.
Because of this, the Philippines has a unique balance of marine biodiversity. These waters hold a higher concentration of species per unit area than anywhere else nearby, with almost 2000 fish species recorded to date! 33 of those species are endemic, meaning they are only found in Philippine reefs. Even better, out of the seven sea turtle species that are alive today, five of them are found in these waters!
Look at the wet markets anywhere around the country, and see how many colorful, little fish are being sold there in large numbers. Even the larger ones are sometimes brightly colored or have a strange shape to them, and they are all caught in the oceans just nearby this stunning island paradise! There is a reason that the Philippines is called the “center of the center” of marine biodiversity.
However, even today, not much is known about a vast majority of species living in these waters. Not much has been put into researching many of these creatures and even less has been put into trying to save them and their habitats.
Do not let the children of the future turn to you and ask why tuna or dolphins no longer exist anywhere else but their coloring books.
Just last year, the Verde Island Passage, the narrow body of water between Luzon and the Mindoro Islands, yielded 100 new marine creatures that had not yet been discovered. That is understandable, as humans have only explored 5% of the ocean. However, it seems like every day, people are looking for more ways to take more from the ocean than what can be naturally replenished.
(Currently, 1.5 million species have been named and identified, and yet scientists estimate anywhere from 2 million, all the way to 50 million more species that are yet to be discovered, or have been mislabeled. This includes both land, sea, and sky.)
Did you know that 33% of toxic runoffs come from air pollution, and 44% of it come from runoffs from rivers and streams feeding the ocean? Next time you pass a river near you that runs through civilization, look at the colors present, whether they be a muddy, filthy brown, or a toxic, algae-ridden green. Either way, the ocean suffers for it.
As anything and everything gets dumped into it, it really does suffer. Destructive fishing practices are illegal, and yet they still happen today, especially in the Philippines. Toxic chemicals are released into the water with the explosion, killing corals and fish indiscriminately. Humans step on corals, breaking them, and reach down to touch and step on whale sharks, causing unnecessary stress, removing its natural body slime, and exposing it to infection.
And all the while, sharks are being killed for their fins (despite it being illegal in most countries), dugongs were only recently being wrestled back from the brink of extinction, and the constant pressure to produce goods, even when they’re illegal (black market). Unfortunately, the ocean is vast, and cannot be policed 100% of the time.
This is the importance of conservation and the protection of marine biodiversity. Many factors weigh into the loss of said biodiversity, and yet most revolve around humankind. Human interference, pollution, overfishing, global warming, and plain, stupid, destructive practices from the days of old are but some of the reasons the oceans are now crying out for help.
A chain is incomplete if one of the links are missing, and that is what is scary about this. Individual species dying off many not be a big deal on the individual level, but when you consider than the species was food for/food of another, it all adds up. At present, links are disappearing left and right, food chains are breaking down, and ecosystems are suffering.