DENR Conducts Coral Reef Assessment in Ilin and
Ambulong Islands in San Jose, Occidental Mindoro
by: June Pineda-David
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) MIMAROPA, through CENRO San Jose’s licensed Open Water Divers (OWD) and Regional Coral Reef Assessment Team (RCRAT) members, composed of licensed Dive Masters and Advanced Open Water Divers based in Occidental Mindoro, has conducted series of coral reef assessments to determine the potential loss in terms of coral cover and associated biodiversity that may be brought about by the submarine cable to be placed by the Occidental Mindoro Electric Cooperative, Inc. (OMECO) for its electrification project in Ilin and Ambulong Islands. It also aims to identify potential sites to be declared as Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) under the Protected Area Management Enhancement (GIZ-PAME) Project, the events were held last February 26-27 and March 01, 2016 respectively.
Through the use of Benthos Line Intercept Transect (LIT) method, the relative abundance of living and non-living things of the reef bottom observed within a defined area will be estimated. The team was composed of Dive Master Rodel M. Boyles (Team Leader/Fish Specialist), Advanced Open Water Diver Robert P. Duquil (Corals Specialist), OWD Ma. Teresita P. David, Jr. (documenter), and OWD Eugene S. Secreto (GIS Specialist).
Based on the assessments conducted, the Baclayan reef in Ilin Island has an approximate area of 10.14 hectares and has a mean coral cover of 49.75% and falls under the “fair” status category, with hard corals having the largest percentage cover recorded among the life forms in all stations surveyed at Baclayan Reef. There was also no Dead Coral (DC) recorded during the assessment positively signifying that there were no recent manmade disturbances (e.g., cyanide fishing, dynamite fishing, etc.). Moreover, the presence of hard coral recruits or the recently settled juveniles were also observed in the area which signifies that natural regeneration of coral cover can possibly be attained by protecting and conserving the reef.
The sampling station surveyed in Ambulong Island has an approximate area of 4.14 hectares and a mean living coral cover of 65.36% which was classified as ‘good.’ Although, the living coral cover falls under the “good” status category, recently dead corals were recorded in the surveyed area which signifies threats within the reef area, either human-induced (e.g. cyanide fishing) or natural causes (e.g. El Niño phenomenon, crown-of-thorns).
The assessment, a total of 73 different fish species were recorded in Ilin and Ambulong islands wherein Major/Aquarium species (ornamental fish) ranked the highest, followed by Indicator species (defines a trait/characteristic of the environment) then the Target species (for consumption/commercial fishes). The Team also concluded that the potential loss in terms of coral cover and associated biodiversity that may be brought about by the submarine cable electrification project in the islands is only .54%, making the project feasible, benefitting 2,800 households in Ilin and Ambulong Islands.