A recent marine study has noted the “general absence” of reef sharks in most of the country’s reef ecosystems, a sign of their stressed or deteriorating natural condition.
The study, conducted by the Large Marine Vertebrates Research Institute (LAMAVE) Philippines on several marine ecosystems, revealed that sharks could only be found at the Tubbataha and Apo Reef Natural Park in Occidental Mindoro.
The study was part of a global effort to develop a baseline information about the decline of shark and ray species in marine ecosystems. It noted latest reports indicating that more than twenty five percent of sharks and rays are currently threatened with extinction.
The study stated there is “a general lack of reef sharks across the country, even in good habitats” and noted that the problem has been caused mainly by overfishing.
The study noted however that at least in one protected area – the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park – the sharks still thrive and “offering a ray of hope.”
The study noted that sharks and rays are generally absent outside large protected areas like Tubbataha.
“Most shark populations have been extirpated in the Philippines and urgent actions are needed to save these species,” the study noted.
Along with Tubbataha and Apo Reef, also surveyed as part of the ongoing study were Cawili, Cagayancillo in Palawan, Ticao in Masbate, and Matnog in Sorsogon.
Tubbataha park superintendent Angelique Songco, confirmed the study findings.
“Upon reading the [LAMAVE study] results, of course, we could not be any more ecstatic and proud to know that sharks are very much evident in the Tubbataha Reefs,” she said in a text message August 14.
“Knowing that sharks are disappearing deeply saddens and alarms us but there is a ray of sunshine in the fact that they are living abundantly at the Park. We only hope that other areas will begin caring for these especially important species.“
She added that their office will continue to protect local shark populations by sharing their advocacies and partnering with research groups.
“Since Tubbataha Reefs is a marine protected area and World Heritage Site, there is no human intervention that we can do to make it better. All we can do to ensure that the sharks thrive at the Park is to continue what we are doing and to share our advocacy to people around the world. We will also continue on working with organizations like LAMAVE who further the studies and increase knowledge of these species,” she said.
LAMAVE’s research project is part of the group’s effort to support the creation of marine protected areas in the Philippines and the rest of the “coral triangle” region.