Apo Reef, Occidental Mindoro
Marine Protected Area plus Climate Change Adaptation
Apo Reef is the largest atoll-like reef in the Philippines and the second largest non-contiguous reef on Earth. It covers 34 square kilometers and boasts of two impressive lagoon systems. The area exhibits a wide variety of habitat types and hosts a high diversity of corals, fishes, invertebrates and other fauna. After Tubbataha, Apo Reef became the country's second Marine Protected Area (MPA) where fishing in all its forms is completely banned.
Apo Reef National Park (ARNP) is composed of a diverse assemblage of shallow tropical marine habitats that provide food and shelter for a plethora of invertebrate fauna and fish life. The relatively large distance of the reef complex from the main island of Mindoro is seen as a major factor in helping minimize the negative impacts typically associated with a reef's proximity to man – the most significant of which would include overfishing, sedimentation and pollution. With the reclassification of ARNP as a strict protection zone in 2007, illegal fishing activities have been dramatically reduced. This management intervention was cited as one of the main reasons for the increase in fish abundance within and around ARNP.
The majority of enforcement activities within the park is provided by WWF and its allies, with at least 135 patrol days conducted in 2012. The number of apprehended violators has significantly been reduced to just a single incident involving three boats compared with over 10 apprehensions per season in previous years. Such a decrease can only be attributed to the deterrence provided by effective and serious park management. Recovering from the stress of overfishing (from when ARNP still allowed fishing in designated zones), recent surveys have concluded that both target and indicator fish species have increased and are stabilizing at about 250 species. Fish biomass per square kilometer has soared to over 75 tonnes – easily twice the levels seen in a typical healthy Philippine reef.