Napoleon wrassed is classified as an endangered fish species. (Photo by Lene Topp via the FB page of the Tubbataha Natural Park and World Heritage Site)

A research team is currently conducting a survey and assessment of the population of Napoleon wrasse (Cheilinus undulatus) at the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park (TRNP).

Assistant Park Superintendent Retch Alaba said a research team left for Tubbataha Reefs on Thursday for the second Napoleon wrasse assessment to determine the count of the fish species there.

The Napoleon wrasse, locally known as “mameng,” is listed as an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) due to its decreasing population.

“Dahil kaunti na lang ang bilang sa ibang lugar sa Pilipinas and since Tubbataha ang may pinakamaraming population nito, binalikan ngayon, after seven years para malaman kung ano na ang status ng Napoleon wrasse,” Alaba said.

(Because the population is dwindling in other parts of the Philippines and since Tubbataha has the largest population of this species, we returned after seven years to assess the current status of the Napoleon wrasse.)

Park Superintendent Angelique Songco also said they conducted a baseline survey of the Mameng population in Tubbataha back in 2017, and they are now trying to determine if there is a difference.

“We want to know the population density of the fish. Kung naapektuhan ba sya ng init kasi sobrang init ng tubig ngayon. So hindi natin alam kung saan ang mas marami, sa malalim o sa mas mababaw, hypothesis like that, we want to check out,” Songco said.

(We want to know the population density of the fish. If it has been affected by the heat because the water is extremely hot right now. So we don’t know where there are more, in the deeper or shallower areas, hypotheses like that, we want to check out.)

Alaba, meanwhile, said that aside from the Napoleon Wrasse survey, TRNP management has also conducted other surveys and is set to conduct more in the days to come.

In April, they started with monitoring corals and fish populations, followed in early May by a seabird and water quality study was also conducted.

She mentioned that a research team will also go to the reef next week for another study on the bird islet in the north atoll. She also said they will try to find ways to mitigate problems in the reef’s north atoll, particularly on the bird islet.

“One of the problems that we want to mitigate is the erosion of the islet. A group of scientists from UP-MSI (University of the Philippines Marine Science Intitute) are coming to conduct study on the erosion of the islet and to find possible mitigating measures to address the problem,” she said.

“Another team from De La Salle University is also going to assess corals in other areas where we do not normally monitor,” she added.