As of latest count, the Philippines has 7,641 islands. As an archipelago, the country is surrounded by major bodies of water such as the Pacific Ocean, the Philippine Sea, the South China Sea or West Philippine Sea, the Sulu Sea, and the Celebes Sea. With so many oceans surrounding us, it isn’t any wonder why we celebrate an entire Month of the Ocean, i.e. this May, while the rest of the world only celebrates a Day of the Ocean.
It has been 19 years since it May was declared to be the Month of the Ocean. The proclamation mandates the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) of the Department of Agriculture to spearhead the celebration with emphasis on the need to conserve and protect the country’s coastal and marine resources.
This year’s celebration focuses on saving our reefs with the theme being “Together for Our Reefs“, and thus activities will highlight the significance of conserving and protecting our coral reefs. Coincidentally, 2018 is also declared as “International Year of the Reef” because the whole world’s reefs, not just ours, are really facing serious threats.
Next to Indonesia, the Philippine coral reef system is considered as the second largest in Southeast Asia. It covers around 240 million hectares of water and is home to some 468 species of stony or hard corals, over 50 soft corals, 1,755 reef-associated fishes, 648 mollusks, and 27 marine mammals.
Coral reefs are considered as the “rainforest of the sea” because they provide shelter to many marine species or organisms. Besides that, healthy coral reefs provide numerous other benefits:
Habitat: Home to over 1 million diverse aquatic species, including thousands of fish species.
Income: Coral reefs and related ecosystems have a global estimated value of ‘$2.7 trillion per year, or 2.2% of all global ecosystem service values’, this includes tourism and food.
Coastal protection: coral reefs reduce shoreline erosion by absorbing energy from the waves: they can protect coastal housing, agricultural land and beaches. The global net benefit of coastal protection by reefs is an estimated $9 billion per year.
Medicine: Reefs are home to species that contain pharmaceutical compounds that have potential for treatments for some of the world’s most prevalent and dangerous illnesses and diseases. [Source: https://www.iyor2018.org/about-coral-reefs/]
Corals grow very slowly. They take a whole year to grow in size from 0.5 cm to 2 cm. Just imagine how many decades it took for some of those coral reefs we see to grow to their current size.
The DENR, through its Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) and Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau-Coastal and Marine Management Office (PAWB-CMMO), is set to conduct month-long activities to promote ocean conservation and marine resource sustainability including symposium, cleanups among others.
Among these, the DENR-BMB through the Coastal and Marine Division (CMD) has an ongoing Month of the Ocean Photo Contest in line with the celebration of the International Year of the Reefs (IYOR) 2018. It is open to all Filipino Professional and Amateur Photographers, 18 years old and above. The photo contest has three categories:
1. Together for our Coastal and Marine Ecosystems
Photos showing the diversity and/or biology of corals and/or the equally important coastal and marine ecosystems. This category aims to document the significant features and characteristics of the coastal and marine environment for public awareness, appreciation and understanding.
2. Together in Protecting our Reefs
towards Real and Impactful Solutions
Photos depicting biodiversity conservation initiatives towards the coastal and marine environment which will promote proper human interaction towards the reefs and other related ecosystems.
3.Together in Protecting our Reefs from Human-Induced Threats
Photos emphasizing human-induced threats to the coastal and marine ecosystems which will highlight the possible effects of unsustainable anthropogenic practices.
The winners for each category will get a chance to an all-expense paid trip to Cebu and visit the majestic Olango Island Wildlife Sanctuary. Interested photographers can send their photo entries to the following link on or before May 15,2018: Month of the Ocean 2018
Plastic straws and bags, glitters, micro-beads from toothpaste gels and liquid soaps among others are damaging coral reefs. Have you stopped using those things yet?