An effort to seed a decimated reef off Boracay Island in the Philippines is apparently paying dividends as reef fish have returned to the area and corals are attaching to the devices designed to enhance coral growth. Through the Boracay Foundation, officials last year deployed reef domes called reef buds in an effort to give reef species a place to take shelter while the foundation attempts to restore the island’s coral reefs via coral frags that have been placed in areas where once pristine reefs were located.
The reef buds appear to be working as designed. The dome shaped devices help encourage algae growth and serve as a spawning bed for reef fishes. Each reef bud measures 1.2 meters by 1.2 meters and are comprised of a mixture of organic and inorganic materials and weigh between 450 and 600 kilograms. More than 5,000 reef buds were placed in the water around Boracay Island last year. It is hoped that the domes will help the reefs to recover 20 to 30 percent in 10 years. The reef buds are apparently having a positive effect. The foundation reported this month that the 32 reef buds located in the vicinity of the Boracay Regency are now housing 13 species of fish compared to zero species when the reef buds were placed 18 months ago. The area off the Boracay Regency is now dominated by the striped eel cat (Plotosus lineatus) and various butterflyfish (Chaetodontidae) species. The foundation also reported that corals have begun to attach to the reef buds as well.
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Coral reefs off Boracay Island in the Philippines have suffered due to more than 26 years of rapid growth as a tourist destination with little oversight with regard to how the island was developed. According to a report in the Asahi Shimbun, the reefs are being destroyed primarily by poor water quality due to the dumping of domestic and resort effluence into the sea without first treating the water, the construction of seawalls, and the dragging of boat anchors onto the reefs.
According to the report, the degree of coral cover in 1990 off the island’s White Beach was 75 percent. This was when tourism was pegged at less than 100,000 visitors a year. Today that coral cover is now pegged at between 5 and 15 percent, all largely due to overdevelopment of the island. More than 1 million tourists visited the island in 2012. The island’s main beach is just four kilometers long. The coral off White Beach has weakened, according to the report, and has led to a reduction of the reefs that protect the beach from incoming waves. These waves have become stronger in the past several years, and are now removing sand from the beach, which clouds the water and starves the coral of algae and sunlight that is necessary for their survival.
Because the administrators of the island realize that without the white sand beach and without the coral reef, tourists will no longer come to the island, a seemingly concerted effort is taking place to restore what the island had and to preserve what it still has.
The Philippines is home to 7,107 islands, and has one of the largest and most diverse populations of marine fish and corals. Boracay Island is one of the most popular beach destinations in the Philippines due in part to its fine white sand beach. More than 908,000 tourists visited the island last year and 1 million are expected to visit in 2012, according to the Inquirer report. It was named as the top beach destination in Asia by TripAdvisor.com and the second ranked island destination in the world by Travel+Leisure magazine.