VOICES Voices Icon Ideas and Insight From Explorers

Menu

1Frame4Nature | A Vessel of Life in the Philippine Seas

What YOU Can Do: 

  • Reduce your carbon footprint: Ride your bike or walk to work, and use public transportation or share a ride whenever possible. Committing to it, even just once a week, is a consistent contribution that reduces fossil fuel use.

–1Frame4Nature is a collection of images and stories from around the globe of your personal connection to nature. However small, when combined with the actions of others, your individual actions can impact real and tangible outcomes for the preservation of our planet. Submit your story now!

Coral reefs, magroves and seagrass beds provide vital nursery grounds for fish and other marine life. Here, a juvenile ghost cardinalfish (Nectamia fusca) seeks shelter of under fronds of seagrass. Batasan Island; Danajon Bank, Bohol, Philippines © Michael Ready / iLCP

iLCP Fellow Michael Ready‘s 1Frame4Nature: A Vessel of Life in the Philippine Seas

Imagine a booming underwater powerhouse, overflowing with vibrant biodiversity; a vast, dynamic wonderland of adaptation in aquatic form. Primordial soup? Not quite–though coral reefs are themselves an irreplaceable vessel of life.

Despite the all of the environmental pressures at play, a wide variey of coral types still inhabit the reefs of Danajon, like this soft coral tree (Dendronephthya sp.). At night, with its polyps extended, it filters tiny prey items out of the passing current. Batasan MPA; Danajon Bank, Bohol, Philippines © Michael Ready / iLCP

From fish nurseries to coastline protection and pharmaceutical breakthroughs to diving meccas, coral reefs provide a multitude of ecological services and economic contributions. Awed by the endless infinity of life living upon life to degrees unimaginable to the naked eye, I count myself lucky to have spent time in these enchanting habitats in many parts of the world.

Though large fish and top predators like reef sharks are still absent, these hard corals are thriving inside the the Bilangbilangan MPA (Marine Protected Area), Bilangbilangan,Tubigon, Danajon Bank, Bohol, Philippines © Michael Ready / iLCP

Like most marine ecosystems, the coral reefs of the world are fragile and are increasingly subject to the destructive forces of climate change, ocean acidification, pollution, and physical damage. For this reason, in 2013 iLCP focused attention on this urgent need, and I returned to the Philippines to visit a region known as Danajon Bank. This double barrier reef was once one of the most biodiverse places on the planet; now the reef systems, along with their neighboring mangroves and seagrass beds, cling to life amidst the pressures of the day.

Rubble remnants of a large plate coral, an all too common scene among the reefs impacted by pollution and destructive fishing. Danajon Bank, Bohol, Philippines © Michael Ready / iLCP

Sadly, overfishing, destructive fishing methods, and sedimentation from increased land use are at the heart of the decline of this rare and impossibly wild ecosystem. Since the 1950s, when blast fishing was introduced, there has been a steady reduction in the artisanal fish catch. Catch records for each subsequent decade drop drastically with each technological advancement implemented by commercial fishers. It is within the people of the surrounding villages where the loss is felt more plainly, every day, than in any image I could show or story I could tell.

Seaweed farming is now practised in the Danajon region as a more sustainable means of income. Here, a diver harvests seaweed cultured on lines near the surface. The fast growing algae (Kappaphycus cottonii) is harvested for food and also for its carrageenan compounds; Taglibas; Danajon Bank, Bohol, Philippines © Michael Ready / iLCP

But Danajon is also a place where nonprofits, government agencies, and the local island communities are pulling together to affect change. Establishing marine protected areas (MPAs) and developing more sustainable economic alternatives are just a few of the efforts that have been implemented to restore these ecosystems and improve community wellness. Even with the more recent setbacks of significant earthquake and typhoon damage, there are reasons for hope. In some areas, the ecosystem’s vital signs are improving: reef cover is increasing and predatory fish have been sighted where they had been completely absent for years. The work continues.

Seaweed farming provides the local community of Hambongan Island a more sustainable means of income. Here, several generations are tying seaweed to lines that wil be floated near the surface in local lagoons. The fast growing algae (Kappaphycus cottonii) is farmed for food and also for its carrageenan compounds; Hambongan; Danajon Bank, Bohol, Philippines © Michael Ready / iLCP

This expedition clarified my sense of the human impact on coral reefs, both destructive and restorative. It also challenged me to look closer at my lifestyle and to seek out ways to reduce my contribution to those negative impacts affecting marine life, and specifically those impacting the reefs and people of Danajon Bank. Coral reefs notwithstanding, the traditions, humor and resilience of the people of this magical place are a daily reminder that it’s a place worth saving.

Fragile yet persisting, a female tigertail seahorse (Hippocampus comes).emerges at night to hunt for tiny prey. A keystone species of the Danajon Bank region, as with many seahorses, their population is in decline due to overcollection for traditional medicine. Budlaan; Danajon Bank, Bohol, Philippines © Michael Ready / iLCP

Even all the way over here, we can help. Here are some actions we can take to make a positive difference at home and across the globe:

Reduce your carbon footprint: Ride your bike or walk to work, and use public transportation or share a ride whenever possible. Committing to it, even just once a week, is a consistent contribution that reduces fossil fuel use.

Eat local: Food transport and conventional production methods, including the use of some fertilizers, contribute significantly to greenhouse gas emissions. Choose locally grown organic foods, which taste even better from your own backyard!

Choose sustainable seafoods: Avoid eating shrimp and other animals that are caught or cultured in ways that are destructive to marine habitats. There are many resources for making educated choices, and this is a good place to start: http://www.seafoodwatch.org/

Finally, dive in! Visit a coral reef and enjoy its beauty and abundance. Tourism is a great way to give back to local communities and it strengthens the incentives to keep reefs healthy and protected well into the future.

The iconic symbiotic partners of the tropical pacific, a male spinecheek anemonefish (Premnas biaculeatus) nestling among the tentacles of its host anemone; Batasan MPA; Danajon Bank, Bohol, Philippines © Michael Ready / iLCP

—————————————————————————————————————————

This article is brought to you by the 1Frame4Nature Campaign. Share a picture and story on Instagram with the hashtag #1Frame4Nature, of your personal connection to nature and tell us what action you’ve taken on behalf of our planet.

More stories from 1Frame4Nature