Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park, Philippines
Tubbataha is the only marine sanctuary in the Philippines. It is situated midway along the Cagayan Ridge in the Sulu Sea. It consists of three reef areas, the North and South Atolls and the Jessie Beazley Reef. It is considered to be the most intact and diverse marine reserve in the Philippines and one of its oldest ecosystems. Established in 1988, it became a World Heritage site in 1993. In 2006, the park was extended to a total area of 96,828 ha and was renamed the Tubbataha Reefs natural Park (IUCN Category II) It plays a key role in the process of reproduction, dispersal and colonisation of marine animals and fish in the Sulu Sea and helps support fisheries outside its boundaries. Tiger and hammerhead sharks are indicators of the ecological balance of the park and it offers a demonstration site to study the responses of a natural reef system to impacts of climate change.
Flora and Fauna: The reefs of the park support 90% of the Phillipines' coral, cetaceans, sharks and fish including the Critically Endangered Napoleon wrasse and have the highest density known of white tip reef sharks. They are also an important nesting and development site for two species of endangered marine turtle, many seabirds including the Critically Endangered Christmas Island Frigate bird.
Threats: Illegal and destructive fishing practices are a major threat to the Park; not only local but international fishermen exploit the park for the international market. Fish aggregating devices outside the park are set to drawn fish from within it.
Tourism generates 70% of the Park's finance, and is acceptable at the moment, but with plans to augment the tourism in the park, guidelines need to be put in place to avoid potential damage to the values of the sanctuary.
Shipping is also a major threat as there have already been two groundings in recent years.
Oil exploration and exploitation in the Sulu Sea needs to be covered by an Environmental Impact Assessment to ensure that no impact is produced to the park.
Why should we protect the area? One of the most significant fish nurseries of the Philippines, Tubbataha replenishes the Sulu Sea, offering its inhabitants an abundance of fish, which are the basis of the Filipino diet. The tourism aspect is also essential offering many resources to indigenous people living within or in the immediate boundary of the park.