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‘Coral bleaching’ threatens world-class dive spots in Sarangani

GENERAL SANTOS CITY, Oct 28. — Corals in world-class dive spots in Sarangani Province are reportedly showing signs of degradation mainly due to a phenomenon called "coral bleaching."

John Heitz, an American scuba diver, said at least 10 to 20 percent of the corals at a portion of Barangay Kamanga in Maasim, Sarangani Province have already showed signs of fading colors because of coral bleaching.

He said local divers initially noticed such problem sometime last month during a regular diving activity in the area.

Coral bleaching is supposedly caused by global warming or the steady rise in the mean temperature of the earth’s atmosphere.

Barangay Kamanga in Maasim boasts of a world-class dive spot, where one need not wander far away from the shore to experience the dazzling submarine beauty.

Heitz said he recorded temperatures of 86 to 87 degrees Fahrenheit in one of his recent diving expeditions.

“That’s pretty warm as I usually get a temperature of 84 degrees (Fahrenheit),” he added.

He said some of those affected by the bleaching are the acropora table corals, soft corals and pink hydroids.

“They’re losing their color, with the pink hydroids also losing their branches (as a result of the bleaching),” he said.

With the coral bleaching rearing its ugly head in Maasim, Heitz expressed hopes it is not too bad to allow the corals to recover and not die.

Sani Macabalang, regional director of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources in Region 12, said the agency was not aware of the coral bleaching phenomenon that hit Maasim town.

He initially instructed BFAR personnel to verify the report.

In a statement issued last year, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) warned of a widespread and severe coral bleaching episode that will cause immense damage to some of the world’s most important marine environments in the coming months.

The US Government’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has predicted severe bleaching in parts of the Coral Sea, which lies adjacent to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, and the Coral Triangle, WWF said.

The Philippines is part of the Coral Triangle, a 5.4 million square kilometer expanse of ocean in the Indo-Pacific which is considered the center of the world’s marine life.

“This forecast bleaching episode will be caused by increased water temperatures and is the kind of event we can expect on a regular basis if average global temperatures rise above 2 degrees,” said Richard Leck, Climate Change Strategy Leader for WWF’s Coral Triangle Program.

The Coral Triangle, stretching from the Philippines to Malaysia and Papua New Guinea, is home to 75 percent of all known coral species. More than 120 million people rely on its marine resources.

With the intense El Nino in 1998, coral bleaching hit the Philippines, with the tourism and fisheries industry in El Nido, Palawan reportedly suffering US $ 15 million in losses. (PNA)

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