The Australian Center for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) Coral Restoration project wrapped up its first coral spawning effort in Palawan with members of the Municipal Agriculture Office (MAO) of San Vicente this June 5.

The LGU’s marine research team would employ a close monitoring process to prevent any negative impact on the coral larvae during the rainy season.

The ACIAR Coral Restoration project is an Australian-based marine conservation effort dedicated to restoring damaged coral reefs in biospheres across the world. In the Southeast Asia region, they are focused on coral reseeding projects in the Philippines, Indonesia, and Vietnam.

ACIAR, in collaboration with the San Vicente LGU, the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute, Southern Cross University, and Dr. Roger (…) from the College of Fisheries in Western Philippines University, had cultured millions of coral larvae from May 23-28 which were released at Port Barton Marine Park this June, to be monitored around the clock until the end of June.

Charles Maquiso, marine biologist for the San Vicente MAO said that the heavy rains predicted to come later this June would affect the spawning and fertilization of the larvae.

“Since maulan po mababawasan yung salinity ng dagat (…) Isa rin na risk yun sa ulan. Kaya itong mga larvae everyday naming minomonitor kung mayroon, kinukuha yung kaniayng mga water parameters like yung temperature, yung oxygen (…) Kung magko-collapse yung culture natin, alam natin kung saan ang problema,” Maquiso remarked.

(Since it’s rainy, the ocean’s salinity decreases. (…) Rain is also a risk factor. That’s why we monitor the larvae daily to see if there are any, we also collect their water parameters like temperature, oxygen (…) If our culture collapses, we know where the problem lies.)

“The coral gametes were cultured in larval pools, (…) These larvae are then deposited onto controlled pools on the ocean, targeting sparse spots on the reef.

Maquiso said that the ACIAR usually provided covers for the larval pools in case of weather like La Niña, but that they didn’t manage to bring one to Palawan this time.

“Pasalamat tayo na ang culture natin ngayon, may ulan ngayon pero di naman malakas. Yun yung risk sa susunod na spawning,” Maquiso said.

(We’re fortunate that our culture is experiencing rain now, but it’s not too heavy. That’s the risk for the next spawning.)

The first ACIAR coral project in the Philippines was in Bolinao, Pangasinan in 2019, and had already restored most of the coral reefs in the place. Maquiso stated that sexual reproduction through coral spawning was much faster than asexual reproduction through coral gardening/propagation, with only three years to proliferate completely among the waters.

The spawning, Maquiso explained, was at its height during the five days after the full moon, with the next one happening around the end of June. He added that baby corals would already be visible after nine months of hatching.

Previously, ACIAR reseeded corals in Pangasinan, Batangas, Cebu, and Davao City. Maquiso expressed hopefulness that the project’s success in San Vicente would encourage other marine conservation projects in the province to use the same coral restoration technique.

ACIAR has been collaborating with the University of the Philippines’ Marine Science Institute in coral reseeding projects around the country since 2015.