Philippines: Large marine protected areas established in Palawan

Update Philippines 7 Oct 16;

A whopping 1,013,340 hectares covering both the coastal and offshore waters of Cagayancillo, plus 80,000 hectares of Aborlan in Palawan were recently declared as Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). This is part of a two-country initiative by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and Fondation Segré to rebuild the fish stocks of the Coral Triangle by changing the way people view protected areas.

MPAs are portions of the sea which are protected by law. According to MPAtlas, the Philippines hosts 1557 – more than any in Southeast Asia. Established largely through local government initiatives and administered by coastal communities, these undersea enclaves provide vital safe havens for marine life, while also attracting droves of tourists.

Sadly, many MPAs are plagued by lack of funding. Perhaps just over 100 MPAs are properly administered. Many are negatively viewed by coastal people as deterrents to their ability to fish in front of their homes.

This is because most MPAs have been designed to protect marine biodiversity rather than to replenish fish stocks and support local economies. “Fishermen were initially concerned that they would no longer be allowed to fish,” recalls Aborlan Barangay Captain Zabalo. “But proper zoning allocated areas for fishing.”

Over the past decade, WWF has been trying to put people’s needs first by focusing on the value of MPAs to maximize fisheries production instead of merely protecting biodiversity. So effective has the move been that the people of Cagayancillo clamored to have their waters protected because they benefited from the bounty of the nearby Tubbataha Reefs plus their own marine conservation efforts in Cagayancillo.

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