Catch of the Week
Filipino Scientists Plot the Country’s Aquatic Riches

Filipino Scientists Plot the Country’s Aquatic Riches

Catch of the Week

Despite its abundant underwater natural resources, the Philippines has found it next to impossible to implement protective measures because there has never been a comprehensive collection of information—until now.

In a report by Macy Añonuevo for GMA Netws Online, scientists from the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute (UP-MSI) have come up with the largest and most comprehensive database on Philippine Marine Protected Areas (MPA) to date.

Formally launched on 8 September 2014, The Philippine Marine Protected Area (MPA) Database provides easy access to basic information such as MPA size, location, and management effectiveness, as well as current and historical monitoring data for the country’s 1,815 MPAs (as of September 8).

The map will enable policymakers, resource managers, and local communities to make sound decisions regarding their conservation and management efforts.

The database is a project of UP-MSI and the MPA Support Network (MSN) and is currently supported by UP-MSI and the Marine Environment and Resources Foundation, Inc. (MERF). USAID-Coral Triangle Support Partnership and the Biodiversity Management Bureau-Department of Environment and Natural Resources (BMB-DENR) also supported previous versions of the database.

The database was launched through a paper published in the journal Philippine Science Letters.

What exactly are marine protected areas?

Marine protected areas are defined by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as “clearly defined geographical spaces, recognized, dedicated, and managed, through legal or other effective means, to achieve the long-term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values”.

These spaces may be no-take marine reserves (extractive activities such as fishing are not allowed), marine reserves (extractive and non-extractive activities are regulated), marine parks (zoned into different use areas), and protected landscapes and seascapes (other non-marine resources are included in the protection). They can be declared at the national level or at the local government level, but majority of the MPAs in the Philippines are enacted and enforced by local government units. However, many of the MPAs are not managed effectively.

Making things easier

According to Dr. Porfirio Aliño, one of the co-authors of the launch paper, the MPA database “serves as an important communications link between academia, local government units (LGUs), and government agencies”. MPAs that have already been assessed using the MPA Effectiveness Assessment Tool (MEAT), a tool developed by the Coastal Conservation and Education Foundation (CCEF) and further improved by the Ecogov project of USAID, display their “MPA Report Card”.

The database also allows MPA management teams to directly complete the self-assessment form and upload supporting documents instead of answering it manually on paper or encoding a dynamic PDF file. “It is important to provide a link between practitioners. Once people are aware, they can learn from both the good and bad practices of other LGUs,” said Dr. Aliño.

The MPA database also ensures that historical data is not lost. “We don’t have a good system for storing data at the local level and historical data is very important in managing marine systems. This database ensures that the LGUs and national government can use this data for their management plans,” said Dr. Reniel Cabral of the UP National Institute of Physics, the lead author of the paper.

“The Philippines is at the forefront of community-based management. We have over 1,800 MPAs. The challenge is to make the management of these 1,800 MPAs effective,” added Dr. Cabral.

He added that the database is continuously being updated, after starting with the MPAs and then adding the fish and coral data. “Hopefully, in the next few years, we can add the fisheries data as well,” said Dr. Cabral. “The database is also currently hosted and managed by UP MSI but eventually, we want it to co-manage it with national government agencies like Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR).”

Macy Añonuevo earned her MS Marine Science degree from the University of the Philippines. She is a published science and travel writer and was a finalist in the 2013 World Responsible Tourism Awards under the Best Photography for Responsible Tourism category. Her writings and photographs may be found at www.theislandergirl.com.

(Story courtesy of GMA News)

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