Coron, Palawan — Fishers, marine protected area (MPA) community managers and local government alike are celebrating the sightings of endangered wildlife that have been absent for more than half a decade in Coron, until recently.

The ASEAN Center for Biodiversity (ACB) lauded conservation efforts in Bulalacao, Coron where a comprehensive marine biophysical assessment in 2012 by Malampaya Foundation Inc. (MFI) determined that over 90% of the reefs were heavily damaged by decades of dynamite, poison, intrusion of commercial fishers and other unsustainable methods of extraction by locals and outsiders alike.

Starting 2018, promising signs of biodiversity recovery are being recorded four years following the launch of Bualalacao’s 3,468-hectare MPA in 2014 with sightings of endangered Napoleon wrasse, dugongs, black-tip sharks and marine turtles in permanent monitoring transect sites and no-take zones of the MPA. This is in addition to monitored increases in fish stocks, specifically grazer and pelagic species.

Elsewhere in another Coron conservation site of the foundation, eco-divers are experiencing more frequent encounters with the critically-endangered hawksbill turtles at Barangay Lajala which expanded its MPA to 739 hectares in March 2016. MFI forged a conservation agreement with the site in August 2015 with the bgy and municipal government and local people’s organization.

The ACB cited the conservation approach of MFI which has been forging conservation agreements across several sites in North Palawan, Oriental Mindoro and Batangas, working at the grassroots level to establish new or expand existing MPAs and marine management zones since 2013. Investing heavily in direct social interventions to address human threats to coastal ecosystems like strengthening MPA management and enforcement, the foundation implemented other parallel complementary actions with partners such as support to supplemental livelihoods, skills trainings, terrestrial and coastal habitat rehabilitation, species restocking, regular ecological monitoring, community mobilization, environmental education, waste management initiatives and provision of conservation incentives.