MANILA The Philippines has tightened laws
banning fishing and collecting of species on the country's
largest coral reef to help it recover from near destruction,
the World Wildlife Fund for Nature said on Tuesday.
The 27,400 hectare Apo Reef off the coast of Mindoro island
was almost drained of life by heavy fishing, including by
dynamite and cyanide, which left only a third of coral cover by
the early 1990s.
A ban on fishing, only partially enforced since it took
effect in 1994, has helped restore some of the reef so that
around half is now alive. Now a new local law, brought in this
week, is stepping up protection in what was once of the world's
top dive spots.
"It has been declared a 'no-take zone' to allow the reef
and the various species around it ample time to recover from
years of fishing," said Gregg Yan of the World Wildlife
Yan said the marine park would be opened for tourists to
help generate funds for its protection as well as provide an
alternative livelihood for hundreds of fishermen in the area.
The Philippines tops a list of hotspots for endangered
coral reefs due to destructive fishing methods and pollution,
the Center for Applied Biodiversity Science said in a recent
report published in "Science" magazine.
Some of the endangered species are returning to the reefs.
"A few months back, divers saw a school of over a hundred
scalloped hammerhead sharks," Yan told reporters, adding that
groups of manta and eagle rays had also been sighted in
"Even giants like the whaleshark and sperm whales are being
seen regularly, an indicator that biodiversity levels are
returning," he said.