To kill a coral reef: Add super-warm water, sediment, over-exploitation, and other stresses
Published on Oct. 12, 2016 by Jonathan A. Anticamara, Ph.D.
Summary: Last October 8, 2016 we visited the coral reef Marine Protected Areas and fishing grounds of Masinloc, Zambales, and to our horror we found most of the corals dead - vast expanse of it. The corals were in various stages of dying, from those that were starting to bleach, to those that were completely bleached, and those that have been dead from bleaching for sometime and were now covered in algae. The photos that you will see are accounts of this tragic series of events. We have some suspicions as to how this thing happened - please check-out the images to find the possible culprits.

Vast areas of reefs in Masinloc, Zambales were found dead or dying during our October 2016 visit. Most of the dead corals were covered in silt and algae. The water during our visit was too turbid and less salty from the continuous rain and river run-off from nearby rivers. In addition, the locals said that the water temperature was too hot last summer, which killed many corals.

Here is a massive coral colony, age perhaps about 50+ years old, seen bleaching (i.e., their symbiotic algae are dead or disappearing) and slowly dying. This one, most likely will have no chance of recovering.

We also found that corals in the process of bleaching are being attacked by coral-eating shells (Drupella spp.). The stress from sediment, lack of light, disappearance of symbiotic algae (bleaching), and predation by the Drupella shells all ensured that corals in Masinloc reef are going to die.

It's not just the corals that are dying in Masinloc, even the home of Clark's Anemonefish (Nemo, remember?) - the anemone themselves are turning white and soon be dead. Without the anemone, the Anemonefish themselves are soon going to die. The anemone are their only protection from predation.

Even the Giant Clams are also turning white and will soon be dead. In fact, some were already dead.

The extensive death of corals in Masinloc means disappearance of many Philippine reef species, the loss of Philippine biodiversity, and the loss of all the benefits that Filipinos derived from these diversity (e.g., different food-fishes, tourism, and fishing livelihoods).

We need good science to save the remaining reefs and stop the coral killers from killing more reefs, lest we just have to accept fewer production and benefits from our reefs. Choosing less productive reefs will be very difficult considering the great number of coastal Filipinos relying on reefs for food and livelihood.