By Judy Flores-Partlow
DUMAGUETE CITY, June 8 – The convenor of the 12th International Coral Reef Symposium (ICRS) scheduled next month in Cairns, Australia commended on Friday the sustainable management and the pristine state of coral reefs at the world renowned dive destination, Apo Island, in Dauin, Negros Oriental.
Prof. Terence Hughes, ICRS 2012 convenor, was speaker here Friday at Silliman University on “Scale, Stock-Recruitment Dynamics and the Global Decline of Coral Reefs” forum as part of the Scientist in Schools Lecture of the Australian Embassy in Manila.
In an interview following his lecture, Hughes disclosed that he was impressed with the “incredibly beautiful”, vibrant and diverse coral reefs in Apo Island during his dive visit Thursday.
Hughes noted at least 60 to 80 percent coral cover in Apo Island, in what he further described as “incredibly diverse as I’ve ever seen in other parts of the Coral Triangle.”
According to Hughes, he saw some 60 species that are not found in Australia, even though there are 350 species on the Great Barrier Reef.
Apo Island is very famous among coral reef researchers and managers and is the location of an ongoing study and collaboration between Filipino and Australian researchers, Hughes said.
“Looking at the effectiveness of no-take areas that are initiated and maintained by local people, Apo Island is a really good example of how local communities can sustainably manage their coral reefs and gain the long term benefits that coral reefs can give to them,” he said.
The 12TH ICRS coordinator from the James Cook University in Australia also highlighted that “people (on Apo Island) are managing a vibrant coral reef dive and tourism industry and effectively sustainably managing their fisheries.”
But, while the coral reefs are in very good condition, Hughes expressed one important concern that could determine their fate if left unattended. He noted the need to increase the level of fish on the reefs in Apo Island, which, he said, was at a quite low level.
Coral reefs can look incredibly healthy but without any fish left, and after a disturbance, such as a typhoon or a bleaching event due to global warming, the reefs can lose their capacity to bounce back because of the role fish play in the recovery of corals, Hughes pointed out.
As an example, he cited the herbivores or some types of fish, such as the parrot fish, that eat seaweed, thus preventing blooms after a typhoon or bleaching event due to global warming.
“We have seen reefs around the world where fish have long since been depleted. So we need to manage the fish for their ecological role as well as sustaining fisheries,” he added.
Professor Hughes, on his first visit to the Philippines, has given five lectures around the country and met with coral reef researches and people working on the Coral Triangle Initiative of which the Philippines is a part of.
According to him, the Coral Triangle is the most diverse region in the whole world.
In Manila, Professor Hughes delivered lectures at the UP-Marine Science Institute and the Philippine Science High School.
The Australian Embassy’s Scientists in Schools program aims to bring an Australian scientist each year to Philippine universities and high schools to help raise appreciation for science education, research, and innovation as a path to development.
Scientists in Schools was launched in May 2011 at the UP College of Medicine with distinguished Australian scientist and cervical cancer vaccine pioneer, Professor Ian Frazer, together with the Department of Science and Technology. (PNA) LAP/LAM/JFP