The consequences of overfishing and destructive fishing on Philippine reefs
Published on Oct. 31, 2016 by Jonathan A. Anticamara, Ph.D.
Summary: We conducted a series of national Philippine reef surveys spanning from 2011 to recent times (2016). We've dove in many reefs of the country from Aparri to Tawi-Tawi. From these surveys, we realized how much corals reefs of the Philippines have suffered national declines in fish production due to overfishing and in particular, destructive fishing methods. Added to the suffering of the reefs are the heavy loads of sedimentation and nutrient run-off from land, and the very warm sea temperature during the summer. The photos that you will see are some of vast expanse of Philippine reefs that are now depleted or dead, and in need of active recovery strategies. See our publications on this topic: http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fmars.2016.00021;
http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10531-015-0938-0.
Photo by: J. Anticamara

Here, even the most intact reefs of Sta. Ana in Cagayan is mainly devoid of large fishes. Most of what is left on these reefs are small fishes, indicating depletion from fishing.

Photo by: J. Anticamara

Similarly, we searched for fishes in some of the intact reefs of Sinait, Ilocos, but once again, we found almost no fish left.

Photo by: J. Anticamara

In San Salvador, Masinloc, Zambales, the fishes have been recovering in their abundance and diversity within the Marine Protected Areas (MPA). This is one of the oldest MPAs in the Phlippines. However, outside the MPA boundaries, the reefs have been depleted from overfishing.

Photo by: J. Anticamara

In Twin Rocks MPA, Mabini, Batangas, the fishes have been protected from fishing for over 2o years, but the reefs are dying within the MPAs mainly from sedimentation and impacts of storm. Vast expanse of reefs in Mabini, Batangas are overtaken by algae, which make it difficult for corals to compete with and recover. Outside the MPAs of Mabini, most of the reefs are also heavily overfished with few large fishes left.

Photo by: J. Anticamara

In Leyte Gulf, vast areas that we surveyed still suffered regular onslaught of dynamite fishing. Here, in this photo we  found dead and dying fishes abandoned by dynamite fishers. Most of the reefs in these areas are now dead from impacts of dynamite blasts.

Photo by: J. Anticamara

So far, we found that only few reefs in the Philippines, and only those that are within well-enforced MPAs have large fishes left. Here, is a photo of Tupsan MPA in Camiguin where large fishes are still abundant. Overall, there is a great need to recover many reef fishing grounds in the Philippines, either through protection from unregulated and destructive fishing, or active recovery of dead corals to increase the fish production of many unproductive Philippine reefs. Such actions would require nation-wide investments in effective reef recovery science and techniques, and also alternative non-fishing livelihoods for fishers to allow Philippine reefs to become productive again. Leaving many of Philippine reefs dead have strong negative consequences on the food supply and income of many coastal Filipino fishers and communities.