Approximately 250 kilometers off the northern coastline of Isabela in Aurora province lies a seismically active underwater region that is nearly as massive as Luzon itself. This is Benham Bank, the shallowest part of the Philippine Rise, also known as Benham Rise.
With depths that could go below 5,000 meters, the Philippine Rise is largely unexplored and is probably the last pristine underwater frontier in the country.
A BRUV is deployed. Two cameras are attached to a frame with fish-bait at the center. It is installed with a software that can estimate fish size and analyze the maximum number of fish seen at any one time.
In May 2016, the ocean conservation group Oceana joined scientists from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) and the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) in an expedition to Benham Bank. The expedition used Baited Remote Underwater Video systems (BRUVs) and Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) to capture what lies beneath.
What they discovered was dazzling. Watch.
According to the researchers, the Philippine Rise is a hotbed of biological diversity. Coral upon coral carpet the region. It has a dazzling array of soft and hard coral, fish, algae, and sponges.
Coral cover as far as the eyes can see.
Environmentalists are now appealing to everyone to protect the Philippine Rise. They are urging our leaders to craft a sustainable management framework for the region.
Soft coral found at depths of more than 50 meters
Besides being a center of marine diversity on the planet, the region serves as a buffer against the growing effects of climate change. As a rich spawning ground for assorted fish, it can potentially help in the recovery of fisheries in the country.
Close up of green algae (Halimeda)
Scientists are calling on us to proactively protect the Philippine Rise not just for Filipinos but for the entire planet; not just for our sake now but for the sake of future generations.
Here’s how you can protect the Philippine Rise. Click this link to declare your support.
Read related story: The Philippine Rise is Under Threat and Your Help is Needed to Protect it
Were you dazzled by what the researchers found underwater at the Benham Bank? Share your thoughts below!
Photo and video credits: Oceana Philippines