Coral Bleaching at Sisters' Island Due to Climate Impact

Extensive coral bleaching reported in Singapore's Sisters' Island Marine Park. Dive trails closed temporarily from June 2016 to prevent further undesirable impacts on Singapore coral reefs. Among the corals likely to be affected are those that were rescued from island conversion to make way for Singapore's waste disposal.

By Mallika Naguran

Singapore, 22 August 2016. Leisure scuba divers in Singapore have to head elsewhere to bask in colourful corals as Singapore coral reefs is experiencing massive coral bleaching. A news report by Today stated that coral bleaching is the reason for the closure of the Sisters' Island dive trails. Dive trails are likely to resume for public access in October 2016.

 Coral bleaching has intensified in many parts of the world, including Singapore.

Coral bleaching has intensified in many parts of the world, including Singapore.

Coral bleaching has intensified in many parts of the world, including Singapore.Singapore, like the rest of the world, has become warmer as a result of the El Nino phenomenon that made its presence felt from 2015. NParks provided a conservative estimate of the coral bleaching threshold - a range between 30.95C and 31.35C - where it would be a struggle for corals to survive.  Temperatures of sea surfaces in Southern Singapore have increased beyond the bleaching threshold sometime in May, it reported.

NParks continues to monitor coral health throughout this period. It believes that shutting the dive trails temporarily will minimise human impacts on the stressed corals

NParks has also initiated a survey in June 2016 to study the corals closely to investigate if human intervention is needed to save certain coral species. This can be done by moving rare local species, for instance, into deeper waters or more controlled environments.

Coral colonies in the Sisters' Island Marine Park include those that have been relocated from Pulau Semakau in January 2015.  The National Environment Agency reported then that over 700 coral colonies were moved, equivalent to about 60 square metres of live coral cover, from Semakau Landfill’s lagoon to the Sisters’ Islands Marine Park. The relocation of corals had to be done as the authorities made way for a new landfill cell to fulfil Singapore's waste disposal needs up to 2035 or beyond.

In 1998 and 2010, Singapore experienced mass coral bleaching as well attributed to the El Nino effect. Experts have predicted that coral bleaching will intensify over the years and called for greater governmental action on conservation.

Donsol and Ticao Island : cleaning up for mantas and whalesharks

Whalesharks and mantas are among the most desirable "sightings" for divers and snorkellers everywhere. Take a trip to Donsol in the Philippines and you will most likely be able to see and photograph both. But they need caring for too. By Jeremy Torr.


A leviathan of the deep approaches from a murky wall of plankton (photo Sarah Joseph)

Donsol, April 2015 – We had gone to Donsol, in the Sorgoson province of Luzon in the Philippines, to look whaleshark (butanding in the local language, Tagalog).  Although they had been part of the sea-junkie must-see trail since the late 1990s, the numbers of sightings there had apparently dropped right off in the last two years. And to add to the uncertainty, Typhoon Maysak/Chedeng was rapidly bearing down on Luzon island, where Donsol is situated.

When we arrived, our guide Joel Briones - who happens to be the president of the Donsol Butanding Interaction Association - warned that the whalesharks had definitely started to go somewhere else. For the last couple of seasons, visitors had been lucky to see one or two sharks in a whole week.

But by the end of our three hour snorkelling session, we had dived in over a dozen times, and every single time had seen, swum with and been overawed by at least one of these massive creatures. Like underwater zeppelins, they would materialise out of the plankton soup of Donsol Bay as we swam alongside. They were unbelievably big - they get up to 15 metres long, and weigh 40 tonnes with 2 metre-wide mouths sieving the water for food. Scary but exhilarating in equal measure. We swam and swam until we were utterly exhausted, but still babbling like six-year olds about what we had seen every time we surfaced.

"We were lucky today," grinned Joel. "They seem to have come back again this year." It was an incredible experience, and one that you must do if you get the chance.

BUTANDING PROTECTION


A beautiful spot - but the rubbish will pile up very quickly if not for the environmental actions Rico and his friends

Exactly why the whalesharks congregate at Donsol between January and July to feed, nobody really knows. Despite their size, and their slow swim speed when feeding, their rarity means remarkably little is known about them. Exactly where they migrate to when they leave Donsol is not clear, although some studies say they travel some 8,000km a year. How and where they breed and why they suddenly up and leave is also unclear. There is still a lot of research to be done, say Joel.

He also says they need protecting. "Some fisherman still think they are a nuisance," admits Joel. "When I was a fisherman we didn't like the whalesharks because we thought they ate the fish," he says. "We would see them, and chase them away." As recently as 2006, five whale sharks were found dead near Donsol. They had all been shot at close range, with one showing 13 bullet wounds to its head. And if you ask the right people in the village markets around Donsol today, you can still buy manta ray and whaleshark meat. Smaller specimens get caught in nets and drown, and are chopped up for their meat.

Too many tourists could harm the animals as well. Although a local bylaw only allows 30 boats (each with six tourists) to look for whalesharks at once, that can be flouted. In 2011 there were more than 5,000 recorded boat trips, and possibly more unrecorded. And although there are only supposed to be six swimmers with each butanding at any one time, that too is sometimes contravened. The fear is that if the whalesharks become too bothered by hundreds of goggling snorkellers, they could leave.

ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUE


Rico at Ticao Resort knows cleaning up is a long job - but he loves the sea

The WWF also says that it is equally important that care is taken to ensure the plankton-rich waters at Donsol, and in the whole Ticao Pass sea region that it borders, must be kept free of pollution if the whalesharks and other big fish are to feel at home and come back.

"The problem is most local people see the sea first as a larder to get food from, and second as a garbage tip to get rid of rubbish," says Rico Calleja, manager of the Ticao Island Resort dive station on nearby Ticao Island.

Calleja says that during certain times of the year, the dive centre staff have to clean the beach twice a day to get rid of all the washed up rubbish. Plastic bottles, abandoned nets, fishing lines, and of course one-shot instant coffee wrappers. There must be millions if not billions of those on the beaches around the Philippines - thanks Nescafe.

All of this jetsam ends up in the eco system, damages the food chain and enters the marine population's bloodstream. As Marvin, chief dive instructor at Ticao says, the fishing gear that local fishermen abandon in the sea kills thousands of small fish but also cruelly injures the bigger ones.

UNDERWATER RESCUE


Marvin the marvellous manta rescuer

Marvin has swum with 6metre manta rays at the nearby Manta Bowl (as a parasite cleaning station, it gets hundreds of the massive fish every year) with the tips of their fins half cut away by discarded fishing lines.

"So one time, I went down with some scissors and tried to cut away the line. After the first time when the fish was very suspicious and darted away, it realised I was helping and let me swim up many times to cut away the line," he says. A fellow diver took an amazing video of his rescue, see the link below.

But it is easy to blame to locals - this use of the sea as a disposal system, says Calleja, is simply part of their culture. "When they only had coconut shells and fish bones to throw in the sea there was no problem. It is the modern packaging and materials that causes the problem," he says. "It's a matter of education - we have to start with the children and get them to collect and dispose, not just throw away."

His resort is already working with groups and schools to help educate the local villages, through cleanups and talks, and is looking at the possibility of providing better sanitation for the villages on Ticao too.

"We won't solve these problems in a day," he says. "But we have to solve them. Let's hope we can do that in coming years. If you write about our story, it could help these things happen - so please do!"

  • For more information about the Donsol butanding tours, go to : http://www.donsolecotour.com/
  • For more about the Ticao Island Dive Resort report, go to : http://www.ticao-island-resort.com/
  • To watch Marvin's amazing manta rescue video, go to : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iVw35GWNms4

Coral Reefs On The Verge of Extinction

By 2050, all reefs in the region are projected to be threatened, with more than 90 percent in the high, very high, or critical categories.

Story and Photos by Henrylito D. Tacio

Davao City, 1 July 2014. Off the Davao coast, Kopiat Island boasts of clear and calm waters and wide sections of shoreline blanketed with fine white sand.  It is a tranquil place that hosts unspoiled reefs with rare coral beds.

Just 200 meters away from the island’s shoreline, snorkelers can get close to the various species of colorful corals, both hard and soft. However, you can already get a glimpse of the beautiful corals just by looking down into the water from the boat.

“We are trying to protect these coral reefs from people who want to harvest them for aesthetic purposes in their homes,” says Christine T. Dompor, the provincial tourism officer of Compostela Valley.

They have to protect those ecologically-fragile reefs.  In most parts of the country, coral reefs are on the verge of extinction. “The Philippines sits on the world’s second largest coral reef,”writes Sandra Volpp in her paper, “From the Mountains to the Seas,” which appeared inHandbook Philippines. “And yet, only 1.0% to 2.5% is still intact and serves as habitat for diverse marine flora and fauna; 60% of reefs are heavily damaged.”

“Although coral reefs have always been subject to natural disturbances – disease, predator outbreaks, and climatic disruptions such as hurricanes and the El Niño – natural damage is now being compounded by human-induced disturbances,” noted Coral Reefs: Valuable but Vulnerable, a discussion paper circulated by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).


Unlike hard corals, soft corals do not have a calcareous skeleton. But like hard corals, they are vulnerable to ocean acidification.

There are three major types of coral reefs, according to Dr. Angel C. Alcala, former head of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.  These are fringing type (those found on the edges of islands and which constitutes 30% of the country’s coral reefs); the barrier type (best exemplified by the Dajanon Reef of Central Visayas); and the atoll (of which the Tubbataha and Cagayan Reef in the Sulu Sea are ideal examples).

Unknowingly, corals are the dried and bleached skeletons of soft-bodied animals that live in the warm, sunlit waters of tropical seas and look more like plants and rocks than animals.

The main part of the real coral is the polyp – the extraordinary flower-like animal with a tube-like body and finger-like tentacles.  “Coral polyps get nutrition in two ways,” explains Lindsay Bennett, author of globetrotter island guide, Philippines.

“They catch their food by means of stinging tentacles that paralyze any suitable prey – microscopic creatures called zooplankton – and also engage in a symbiotic relationship with zooxanthellae that live within the polyp structure.”


Symbiotic zoozanthellae algae living in the tissues of coral polyps give corals their colour. Coral bleaching occurs when corals lose this colour, turning white.

Coral polyps reproduce in two ways: asexually (by the division of existing individual polyps) and asexually (by combining egg and sperm from two different polyps).  “This results in a free-swimming polyp that will be carried by ocean currents to find a new colony and commence a new reef,” Bennet writes.

The coral reef is the world’s most diverse marine ecosystem, and one of its most productive.  It is home to some 4,000 species of fish (approximately one-quarter of all marine fish species), along with a vast array of other life forms – molluscs, crustaceans, sea urchins, starfish, sponges, tube-worms and many more. 

Most of these coral reefs are teeming in the waters of the Coral Triangle, which is recognized as the global center of marine biological diversity.  The area within the ecological boundary of the Coral Triangle contains nearly 73,000 square kilometers of coral reefs – that’s 29 percent of the global total – and spans parts of six countries: Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Solomon Islands, and Timor-Leste.

“There are perhaps one million species in a habitat that covers a total of about 250,000 square kilometers (roughly the area of the United Kingdom),” reports Reefs at Risk Revisited in the Coral Triangle, a publication published by the Washington-based World Resources Institute (WRI).

Dynamic and highly productive, coral reefs are not only a critical habitat for numerous species, but also provide essential ecosystem services upon which millions of people depend. More than 275 million people globally live very close to reefs. 

In the Philippines, for instance, more than 40 million people live on the coast within 30 kilometers of coral reef, which represents about 45 percent of the country’s population.  Approximately, two million people depend on fisheries for employment, with about one million small-scale fishermen directly dependent on reef fisheries.  The country’s reefs yield 5 to 37 tons of fish per square kilometer, making them very important to the productivity of fisheries.

“The Philippines is a major supplier of fish to the live reef food fish trade, a billion dollar industry in the Asia-Pacific region,” the WRI report said.  “In 2007, the Philippines exported at least 1,370 tons of coral trout (Plectropomus leopardus), one of the trade’s most important species in terms of volume, which fetched an estimated retail value of about US$140 million.”

Coral reefs, like mangroves, play a major role in protecting tropical shorelines from the erosive powers of storms and wave action.  Under normal conditions, they act as self-repairing, natural breakwaters, which is particularly vital on coastlines that are subject to cyclones and hurricanes.

In terms of net economic benefits of shoreline protection from reefs, Philippines leads with US$400 million while Indonesia came second with US$387 million.  “These values are likely much higher today due to increased development, and hence increased numbers of coastal properties at risk,” the WRI report said.

The prospect of finding a new drug in the sea, especially among coral reef species, may be 300 to 400 times more likely than isolating one from a terrestrial ecosystem. “Marine sources could be the major source of drugs for the next decade,” says Dr. William Fenical, a natural products chemist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California.

The WRI report agreed.  “Many reef-dwelling species have developed complex chemical compounds, such as venoms and chemical defenses, to aid their survival in these highly competitive habitats,” it explained.  “Many such compounds have the potential to form the basis of life-saving pharmaceuticals.”

To date, explorations into the medical application of reef-related compounds include treatments for cancer, HIV, malaria, and other diseases.  “Since only a small portion of reef life has been sampled, there is still vast potential for new pharmaceutically valuable discoveries.”

But the future for coral reefs is grim.  Rising levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere will further threaten reefs, as warming prompts coral bleaching and more acidic water slows coral growth.

The WRI report said that by 2030, almost all reefs in the region are projected to be threatened, with 80 percent in the high, very high, or critical categories.  By 2050, all reefs in the region are projected to be threatened, with more than 90 percent in the high, very high, or critical categories.

“It is rare for any reef to suffer only a single threat,” the WRI report said.  “More often the threats are compounded.  For instance, overfishing eliminates key herbivores that graze on algae, while runoff from agriculture supplies nutrients that cause algal blooms; together, these impacts reduce the abundance or impair the growth of coral.  A reef left vulnerable by one threat can be pushed to ecological collapse by the addition of a second.”

Semporna Shark Sanctuary Soon

Fiona Childs reports on the proposed Semporna Shark Sanctuary that is designed to increase eco-tourism opportunities while protecting sharks and rays. A Gaia Discovery exclusive.


Sharks are an integral part of the marine eco-system but the population of many species are rapidly declining.

Semporna, 20 April 2013. The Semporna region on the east coast of Malaysian Borneo comprises 83 islands and reefs.  It is part of the Coral Triangle, a wildlife enriched area spanning the seas bound by Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, West Papua and to the far east Timor-Leste and Solomon Islands. Within the high level of marine biodiversity that can be found here, 63 species of sharks exist including the rare and elusive Borneo shark, the largest fish in the sea – the whale shark, thresher shark and the scalloped hammerhead shark.  It is an area known for world class diving, yet these animals are under serious threat from overfishing.

A cluster of organisations has come together in Sabah to thwart these threats to marine life by collective action. This primarily involves crafting the formation of a demarcated area primarily to protect sharks. The proposed Semporna Shark Sanctuary would protect and preserve these animals and the diversity of the coral reef systems in the designated 8,000 square kilometres and provide sustainable income to alleviate poverty in the region.   

The Making of the Semporna Shark Sanctuary


The proposal for a shark sanctuary in Semporna, Sabah awaits the approval from the authorities. In the meantime, sharks continue to be overfished in many areas.

Work began on the Semporna Shark Sanctuary proposal in 2009 and considerable progress has been made to date. Borneo Conservancy, a local social enterprise, submitted a formal proposal on the sanctuary to the authorities. This received considerable support from the local government and the Department of Fisheries, according to Rohan Perkins, the Environmental Officer with Scuba Junkie Dive Centre.

“Local and international non-governmental organisations and dive operators have backed the project and over 50,000 people have since signed the petition,” he told Gaia Discovery.   A Shark Alliance has been formed consisting of Malaysia Nature Society – Sabah Branch (MNS-S), Marine Conservation Society (MCS), Shark Education Awareness and Survival (SEAS), Scubazoo, (an underwater filming and photography company), Tropical Research and Conservation Centre (TRACC) and WWF Malaysia.   “Together the supporters are working to get the proposal officially accepted and made federal law,” Rohan said.

According to Rohan, the proposal outlines specific fishing practices that are to be permitted such as subsistence fishing, while outlawing commercial fishing within the range. “These would refer to large fishing vessels using methods such as purse seines and long lines to snag indiscriminately hundreds of fish and marine life such as turtles,” he said. Legislation is thus required to enforce protection against these rampant destructive methods that also include dynamite bombing and cyanide fishing. Shark fishing and finning will also be banned. With the acceptance of the proposal, law will back any enforcement that will be needed to act against such unlawful fishing.


Bajau children and others on Mabul island are educated regularly on looking after land and marine environment.

By reaching out, Scuba Junkie’s team of conservationists have garnered the support of local communities to protect the area, in particular sharks. Scuba Junkie, a dive centre and resort on Mabul Island, holds regular presentations on shark conservation at their premises, official and community venues such as schools. Fund raising for the set up of the Semporna Shark Sanctuary has been made possible by contributions from Project Aware, Hearts for Sharks, individual donations as well as on-going T-shirt sales by Scuba Junkie. “A hundred percent of the proceeds go to the sanctuary,” exclaimed Rohan. 

Benefits of the Semporna Shark Sanctuary

Marine tourism, eco tourism, snorkel and dive operations provide livelihood through employment to local communities within its boundary.  Fishing communities, which would otherwise suffer with the decline of these species, will be compensated through employment opportunities created in the maintenance, up keep and protection of the sanctuary.  Many tourists state that sharks are the major reason they visit the area.  According to Dr James Alin from University Malaysia Sabah’sSchool of Business of Economics, Sabahdiving brings in around RM195 million per year (US$65 million) to the economy whereas banning shark fishing would mean a comparatively small loss of RM5 million (US$1.67 million) to the industry.


Sharks when alive provide more income for villagers and communities through eco tourism and marine tourism.

Globally, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, a third of all shark species are nearly extinct and some species of sharks such as the hammerhead have declined by up to 90% in the last 50 years, primarily as a result of the shark fin trade.  Many of the species targeted are apex predators, they maintain prey diversity and without them marine ecosystems have been shown to collapse. 

In local fish markets, Manta Trust, a research based conservation organisation, found many juvenile and near term pregnant sharks showing that the region is potentially an important breeding and pupping area.  As well as protecting reef habitats and open water where pelagic sharks roam, it would also cover mangroves – vital nursery areas.  More research is needed; camera and tagging data would help to record numbers and determine whether sharks in the area are semi resident or migratory.

More Work Ahead for Sanctuary Champions


Rohan Perkins of Scuba Junkie gives talks to spread the message that sharks are safe and need our protection.

When I visited Scuba Junkie for a review in April this year, I also attended a presentation delivered by Rohan on sharks and shark conservation to the local tourism authorities as well as guest divers.  Scuba Junkie, in partnership with other dive centers and resorts on Mabul, engages with the islanders in education and awareness activities through events such as Mabul Marine Week, an event that began six years ago with the participation of dive operators on the island and rotating chairmanship. For the last three years, Scuba Junkie has been chairing the initiative, which has garnered the support of local authorities as well.

Mabul island communities are amix of settlers from indigenous Sabah tribes with influences from neighbouring Philippines migrants and the Bajau – or stateless people - fringing a section of the beach, living in abject poverty. They are all invited to the fun filled conservation activities as well, opening up new worlds of knowledge of the treasures of the underwater world. Many have since turned away from the use of homemade bombs after learning about their destructiveness to marine life ecosystems. Still there’s more education to be done, as I heard bombs going off in the distance when diving off the protected Sipadan Island in April this year.

Some businesses and restaurants in Semporna, Kota Kinabalu (the capital city of Sabah) and Kuala Lumpur (the administrative centre of Malaysia) now back the proposed shark sanctuary.  According to Rohan, results are apparent. “On Mabul island there used to be ‘stations’ where a catch of 50-60 sharks could be seen with their fins being removed as often as three or four times a week.  This is no longer the case,” he said.

Despite effects on numbers due to over fishing, a number of shark species are still encountered on a daily basis in Sabah and Semporna. This makes it the ideal location for a protected area as it is still possible to prevent their decline instead of having to 'reintroduce and rehabilitate'.   The Semporna Shark Sanctuary, when implemented, would be South East Asia’s first, with the potential to set a model for more through demonstrating successful conservation and economic development.

The Semporna Shark Sanctuary Petition

Notes and References:

IUCN, International Union for Conservation of Nature

http://www.iucn.org

http://cmsdata.iucn.org/downloads/summary_of_report.pdf

Semporna Shark Alliance:

Malaysia Nature Society – Sabah Branch (MNS-S)

http://www.mns.my

Visit their Facebook

Marine Conservation Society (MCS)

Unit 3, Wolf Business Park, Alton Road, Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire HR9 5NB, UK

www.mcsuk.org/

Visit their Facebook

Shark Education Awareness and Survival (SEAS), Scuba Junkie

G23, Wisma Sabah, Kota Kinabalu 88000, Sabah, Malaysia

https://www.facebook.com/scubajunkiesipadan/

Tropical Research and Conservation Centre (TRACC)

4 Turtle Beach, Pom Pom Island, Semporna, Sabah, Malaysia

http://tracc-borneo.org

https://www.facebook.com/tracc.borneo

WWF Malaysia

6th Floor , CPS Tower ,Centrepoint Complex , No 1, Jalan Centrepoint , 88000 , Kota Kinabalu , Sabah , Malaysia

www.wwf.org.my/

https://www.facebook.com/wwfmy

Comparison of economic value of sharks through ecotourism and fishing:

https://www.sharksavers.org/en/education/the-value-of-sharks/sharks-and-ecotourism/

Reasons for Semporna Shark Sanctuary

http://www.newsabahtimes.com.my/nstweb/fullstory/60669

Symposium on Proposed Tun Mustapha Park

Kota Kinabalu, 20 March 2013.  A few parks in Sabah are already being managed with local communities living within them and maintaining their lifestyles.

The establishment of Tun Mustapha Park will represent a major shift towards conservation and sustainable resource use. The proposed Tun Mustapha Park, located at Kudat-Banggi Priority Conservation Area (PCA), in the northern region of Sabah was proposed as a multiple-use park by the Sabah state government in 2003.

After 10 years of conservation efforts, a symposium will be held today (March 20) to highlight how this marine protected area will be part of the evolution of resource management around the world.

The proposed Tun Mustapha Park (TMP) encompasses around 50 islands including Banggi, the largest island in Malaysia, and boasts a high diversity of ethnic groups from the coastal communities of Bajau, Ubian, Suluk, Kagayan, Balabak and Bajau Laut to the inland communities of Rungus, Bonggi and Dusun among others. Including the communities on the coastal mainland, there are approximately 80,000 people living in and around the proposed park.

The majority of these people rely in part on the park’s marine resources. There is a need for the park to be gazetted because of the area’s high biodiversity, concentration of coral reefs, mangroves and the richness of fisheries in the region. The proposed park’s objectives are to protect habitats and support livelihoods for artisanal and commercial fishers. Once fully gazetted, it will be the second largest marine protected area in South-East Asia.

The concept for the park is to be a multiple use, managed area which includes areas for strict protection, tourism, artisanal fishing and commercial fishing among others. A multi-stakeholder group made up of government agencies led by Sabah Parks, Sabah Fisheries Department, Universiti Malaysia Sabah and the Lands and Surveys Department, NGOs including WWF-Malaysia and the local communities have been working to realise the gazetting of TMP.

Under the National Coral Triangle Initiative led by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MOSTI), TMP is recognised as an important area for the implementation of its objectives for the ecosystem approach to fisheries management (EAFM), adopting protected areas as one of the EAFM implementation tools.

This means that the health of the ecosystem as a key indicator is being integrated into the management of the marine protected area.

This approach includes the development of maps of ecosystem features and values, identifying and developing stakeholder profiles, and conducting consultations with stakeholders to build a shared vision around the proposed management approach.

Source: Borneo Post

 

Palau's President Proposes New Marine Sanctuary

Palau's President has proposed banning all commercial fishing in the Pacific nation's waters to create one of the world's largest marine reserves, covering an area roughly the size of France.

President Tommy RemengesauPalau, 16 March 2013. President Tommy Remengesau, who was elected last November, says a commercial fishing ban could help Palau earn more money from tourism than it currently gets from tuna fleets.

He says his vision is for an area "so well protected" that Palau would become the world's largest marine sanctuary.

"No longer will Palau be merely a shark sanctuary, it will be a sea sanctuary that protects all marine wildlife within Palau's exclusive economic zone (EEZ)," President Remengesau said. 

Palau won international acclaim when it created the world's first shark sanctuary in 2009.

Palau's EEZ covers almost 630,000 square kilometres of the northern Pacific, including world-renowned scuba diving and snorkelling sites.

The nation of 300 islands, with a population of about 21,000, has generated negligible revenue from foreign fishing vessels plying its waters.

However, Palau has only one ageing patrol boat and President Remengesau has conceded enforcing any commercial fishing ban will be difficult.

Short-changed

Natural Resources Minister Umiich Sengebau says Palau earns about $5 million a year from the fishing industry, with about $4 million coming from tuna fishing, which is dominated by vessels from Japan and Taiwan.

"The president feels that Palau is short-changed," he said.

He said Palau licensed a total of 129 foreign fishing vessels in 2010 but Pacific island nations received only a fraction of the income generated by tuna captured in their waters.

President Remengesau said the Asian Development Bank estimated the global tuna industry was worth $4 billion a year and only nine per cent went to Pacific nations, where most of the fish are caught.

"Revenue received from commercial fishing licences and taxes from commercial fishing is a drop in the bucket compared to the profits made by large fishing companies," he said.

"An EEZ-wide no commercial fishing zone would mean that only sustenance fishing by Palauan residents and tourism-related sport catch-and-release fishing would be permitted."

He said the proposal was in its early stages and the government would look at alternative revenue sources before implementing it, particularly tourism.

"Some of that revenue will be recovered simply through the increase in tourism that results from the incredible marine biodiversity that will be protected by our sea sanctuary," he said.

Source ABC/AFP

 

 

 

Coral Bleaching Likely To Intensify - ICRS Consensus Statement

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Fiji Coral Farming: Transplanted Corals Provide for Livelihoods

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Tuna Handline Fishing in Philippines to Meet Marine Stewardship Council Sustainability Criteria

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Calcium Carbonate: A Possible Solution to Store Carbon Dioxide and Help Reef Growth Too?

A new technique developed at the Lawrence Livermore Labs could offer a way to scrub CO2 from power station exhausts - and offer coral reefs and organisms a helping hand with raw materials at the same time.