A Unique Position
Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park lies at the heart of the Coral Triangle, the geographic centre of world marine biodiversity. Although the Coral Triangle covers just two percent of our planet’s oceans, it contains at least 40 percent of the world’s fish and 75 percent of corals. Studies show that reefs in this region are comparatively resilient to climate change. Tubbataha’s position at the centre of the Coral Triangle means it has a key role to play in marine biodiversity conservation and, ultimately, in keeping our oceans alive.
Tubbataha is a strictly ‘no-take’ zone and is the largest marine protected area (MPA) in the Philippines.
In 1993, Tubbataha was inscribed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. It was recognised as one of the Philippines’ oldest ecosystems, containing excellent examples of pristine reefs and a high diversity of marine life. It is also an important habitat for internationally threatened and endangered marine species.
UNESCO cited Tubbataha’s outstanding universal value as an important and significant natural habitat for in situ conservation of biological diversity; an example representing significant on-going ecological and biological processes; and an area of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance.
In 1999 Tubbataha was inscribed on the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance.
Among the reasons cited were the outstanding variety of species present in Tubbataha and its important role as a habitat for fish, reptiles, invertebrates, and waterbirds.
Tubbataha’s two islets are a rookery for migratory birds and are among the last known safe breeding habitats of seabirds in Southeast Asia. The islets are the only known breeding grounds for the Philippines’ endemic subspecies of Black Noddy (Anous minutus worcestri). They are also important breeding and feeding areas for critically endangered Christmas Island Frigatebirds (Fregata andrewsi) and Hawksbill Turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata).
Philippine Ecology & Food Security
The Philippines is the second-largest archipelago in the world and relies heavily on its marine resources for food and livelihood. In 2007, the University of the Philippines in the Visayas conducted an important study on the distribution and dispersal of larvae in the Sulu Sea. They discovered that Tubbataha Reefs, Jessie Beazley, and Cagayancillo are key sources of coral and fish larvae, seeding the greater Sulu Sea. Tubbataha Reefs have a decisive role in sustaining the fisheries in surrounding areas, thus providing food and livelihoods for hundreds of thousands of Filipinos.