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Shark Fin Environmental Research Center: A First in the PH

Palawan is regarded as the most important among the top ten coral reef biodiversity hotspots in the world, being both the richest and the most threatened site on the planet. In order to restore Shark Fin Bay’s reefs and rebuild its fish stocks, the Fonds Français pour l'Environnement Mondial (FFEM) or French Facility for Global Environment is supporting the innovative actions being taken by the Sulubaaï Environmental Foundation.

In the Philippines, slash-and-burn agriculture, over-fishing, and some fishing methods are destroying reefs and preventing the natural restoration of habitats. The resulting drastic decline in fish stocks is threatening food security.

To restore the reefs, the FFEM is supporting the privately-run Sulubaaï Environmental Foundation (SEF), administered by French Agency for Development (Agence Française de Développement - AFD),  finances the Shark Fin Bay innovation laboratory in  Palawan for the restoration of coral reef biodiversity.

In 2020, the FFEM granted funding worth €527,000 (Php 31M) to the privately-run SEF to strengthen the resilience of the region and engage the local communities in the management of these protected areas.

After acquiring and restoring the terrestrial environment of Pangatalan island, the SEF has established a protected marine area in Shark Fin Bay in which it is implementing an innovative local restoration technique: Sulu-Reef prostheses. These provide very effective support for natural recolonization, enabling the natural propagation of corals and creation of new habitats. The SEF is associating these restoration activities with community-based environmental conservation actions, education and knowledge-sharing.

PANGATALAN ISLAND

This very small area is located in the north-east of Palawan Island in Shark Fin Bay within the municipality of Taytay. It has a very small surface area of 4.5 hectares, which allowed them to start environmental restoration projects on this small scale, implemented all the necessary measures to address the very bad condition of the area in order to immediately preserve the ecosystems without further delay.

Pangatalan Marine Protected Area

Since March 2016, the island is surrounded by a 46-hectare marine protected area (MPA) created by the Sulubaaï Foundation, in agreement with the barangays of Depla & Silanga, as well as the municipality of Taytay.

The MPA has a highly diverse marine environment where at least 13 ecosystems have been identified.


SHARK FIN BAY, AN INNOVATION LABORATORY FOR THE RESTORATION OF CORAL REEF BIODIVERSITY

The project has four components: 1) leading local populations towards sustainable fishing practices through the creation and management of three protected community marine areas; 2) restoring biodiversity and resources by promoting alternatives to destructive fishing practices; 3) strengthening education and training activities at the Sulubaaï Foundation Sea Academy, aimed at a variety of audiences; and 4) encouraging the capitalizing on and transfer of experience at national and international scale.

This will give restoration of the abundance and diversity of reef resources in at least four sites in the bay, as well as the elimination of non-sustainable fishing practices, and will also improve the socio-economic benefits to local communities through better fish yields.

Through this public-private partnership project, the SEF is linking ecosystem protection and local development. The exemplary nature of the Pangatalan island project led to its being awarded the first “SMILO Sustainable Small Island” accreditation in 2018.

Shark Fin Bay is designed as an innovation laboratory as much technically (scientific monitoring systems, restoration methods) and methodologically (participative implementation by local communities). Rigorous scientific monitoring, involving Filipino and French universities and research centres, facilitates both capitalizing upon experience, and replicability on other sites in the Philippines and elsewhere in Asia.

The groundbreaking ceremony for the Philippines' first Coastal Ecological Restoration Training Center will be on November 25, 2022. The ceremony will be attended by French Ambassador Michèle Boccoz, Senator Loren Legarda, Sulubaai Chairman Frederic Tardieu, Palawan Governor Victorino Dennis Socrates, Filipina Actress Nadine Lustre, other national government officials from the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development Staff, DENR, Taytay Municipal Mayor and other LGU officials. (GATS/PIA MIMAROPA/FFEM)

About the Author

Gene Ace Sapit

Regional Editor

Region 4B

Ace Sapit is an information officer and multimedia artist whose practices ranges from art direction, video editing and social media handling of the Philippine Information Agency Mimaropa's social media accounts.

Before he started entering government office, Ace got a bachelor's degree in Broadcast Communication from Polytechnic University of the Philippines in Manila.

 

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