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A 97,030-hectare marine sanctuary in Palawan, Philippines, is at the core of the Coral Triangle, the world's center of marine biodiversity. Tubbataha's strategic location in this biodiversity hotspot underscores its crucial role in marine conservation and sustaining ocean life. As the largest marine protected area (MPA) in the Philippines and a strictly 'no-take' zone, Tubbataha is pivotal in pres
The Philippines, a major archipelago, depends on its marine resources. A 2007 study by the University of the Philippines revealed that Tubbataha Reefs, Jessie Beazley, and Cagayancillo are crucial for distributing coral and fish larvae in the Sulu Sea. This makes Tubbataha vital for the fisheries and livelihoods of many Filipinos.
UNESCO designated Tubbataha Reefs as a World Heritage Site for its pristine reefs, rich biodiversity, and as a critical habitat for endangered species, acknowledging its global ecological significance.
Listed as a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance for its diverse species, serving as a crucial habitat and breeding ground for birds, turtles, and the endemic Black Noddy in Southeast Asia.
Declared an ASEAN Heritage Park (AHP), the first Philippine marine protected area to receive this recognition.
Tubbataha was recognized as one of three Flyway Network Sites in the Philippines under the East Asian-Australasian Flyway Partnership (EAAFP).
Tubbataha was declared a Particularly Sensitive Sea Area (PSSA) by the International Maritime Organization (IMO).
Awarded as the first-ever Platinum Global Ocean Refuge System (now known as the Blue Parks) along with two other sites.
Named a "Hope Spot" by Mission Blue, highlighting its critical role in ocean health.
The Philippines is considered a Biodiversity Hotspot, one of the world’s most biologically rich countries – but also among the most threatened. Coral reefs are among the most endangered ecosystems on our planet.
Until the 1970s, Tubbataha's isolation and difficult weather protected it from human exploitation. However, by the 1980s, declining nearby fisheries and advancements in boat technology led fishermen, including larger vessels from China and Taiwan, to exploit Tubbataha for revenue, often using destructive fishing methods like dynamite and cyanide, severely damaging the reefs. In response, funding from various organizations in 2000 enabled the construction of a ranger station and regular patrols on Tubbataha’s North Atoll, significantly aiding in combating illegal fishing, though local fishermen are still caught exploiting the park annually.
Illegal fishing activities drastically decreased since 2011, with only one arrest each year in 2012, 2015, 2017, 2021 and 2023. However, illegal fishing is a perennial concern as fish productivity dwindles, thereby requiring park authorities maintain enforcement effort, capacity, and investment.
The Tubbataha ranger station was constructed in 2000. Over a decade of battering by winds and waves has caused seawater to seep into the concrete, ultimately causing support beams to rust, expand, and weaken.
Clean-up efforts show that most of the debris (30% for 2021) is plastic manufactured in other countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia, and Vietnam. Being external in origin and global in scope, an effective response to this issue may be beyond the capacity of the TPAMB and the TMO.
Extreme temperatures caused by climate change resulted in coral bleaching, which affected up to 20% of the hard coral cover of the park in 2020. Hard coral cover continued to decline in 2021, indicating that some sites failed to recover from its impacts.