In 2005, a 10-year study led by Kent Carpenter declared the Philippines as the epicenter of global marine biodiversity.
It is important to take note here the use of the word epicenter. Interestingly enough, while an epicenter
primarily refers to the land source of an earthquake, in this topic of tropical seas, no word can be more appropriate.
The archipelago already compromises the northern most sector of the six nations making up the Coral Triangle, the world’s most biodiverse region when it comes to coral, fish, marine invertebrate and mangrove species. The nearby Great Barrier Reef has approximately 600 types of coral and 2,000 kinds of fish found in this diminutive polygon in the sea.
These kinds of studies and statistics are enough to make nature conservationists, biologists, researchers and photographers collectively jump out their seats and take the next flight for good reason. A submerged world, out of view from majority of the human population residing in cities, with more colors than their largest box of crayons and creatures more bizarre and enchanting than what movies can dream up is something worth multiple looks.
Given that these marine sources are the lifeblood of 60 percent of the local population residing in coastal communities and are responsible for supplying Filipinos with their no. 1 source of protein, it’s a tragedy not many people know about it. The survival of an ecosystem and its ability to support other species becomes more possible if people actually know about it. Unfortunately, the reverse is true as well. Without advocates, the oceans and everything in it will be left to the abusive hands of a select few.
But all is not lost. Perhaps the best way to convince people whose knowledge with the marine life is limited to a trip to the supermarket’s fish section is take them to a spontaneous trip to the coast, strap them with a mask and snorkel and let them gaze in amazement at the rainforests of the sea for the first time.
Just make sure to apply the right mix of gentleness and prodding to maximize effectiveness and avoid cranky friends.
I joined a similar affair just this summer during one of Haribon’s Explore Marine
Biodiversity trips to Lobo, Batangas. From what I experienced, each one of the 15 members and their friends will ever forget the significance and beauty of Philippine coral reefs. It was refreshing to see delighted faces, which on another day, would have scrunched foreheads and jaded eyes.
As most of them were still beginner snorkelers and budding biodiversity conservationists, it showed that while the highest purpose biodiversity may give is to support the survival of man, another of its services must not be overlooked: the ability to bring back wonder to our world.