The Marine Sanctuary of Apo Island: Philippines’ Man Made Ecological Paradise

THE MARINE SANCTUARY OF APO ISLAND: PHILIPPINES’ MAN MADE ECOLOGICAL PARADISE

The Philippines’ ecological nature is truly blessed by God. Well, it is simply because of the inherent beauty and wonders of one of the country’s finest tourist attraction, dubbed as Apo Island. This one of a kind and truly mesmerizing archipelago is inherently a volcanic island, which is actually 12 hectares with respect to its total land area. Geographically, it is strategically situated seven kilometers away from the southeastern tip of Negros Island and almost thirty kilometers away from the southern part of Negros Oriental, the key city of Dumaguete. Amazingly, millions of foreign and local tourists alike will have a once in a lifetime chance to see for themselves a beauteous marine habitat which is actually a man-made marine reserve.

Apo Island Beach Resort, Philippines (Photo Courtesy: Francis Karl dela Peña @mactuscraig on Instagram)
Apo Island Beach Resort, Philippines (Photo Courtesy: Francis Karl dela Peña @mactuscraig on Instagram)
Apo Island, Philippines (Photo Courtesy: @imperialdragon on Instagram)
Apo Island, Philippines (Photo Courtesy: @imperialdragon on Instagram)

To preserve its immense ecological advantage, the said marine sanctuary is lovingly cradled and protected by the National Integrated Protected Act, or otherwise known as NIPA. Under the provisions of this environmental law, the Apo Island with an indulging marine sanctuary will be under the supervision of the Protected Area Management Board. On the part of the tourism industry of the Philippines, the Apo Island Marine Sanctuary has magnificently evolved into a wonderful and engrossing dive site the world over. Over the years, the sought after and sensational international tourist destination had developed two exhilarating resorts. These are the Liberty’s Lodge and the Apo Island Beach Resort.

Apo Island Beach Resort, Philippines (Photo Courtesy: Francis Karl dela Peña @mactuscraig on Instagram)
Apo Island Beach Resort, Philippines (Photo Courtesy: Francis Karl dela Peña @mactuscraig on Instagram)

Speaking of these two endearing vacation hideaways, they have a towering lighthouse and a world-class ranger station.  Currently, the splendid Apo Island coupled with a marine sanctuary is under the municipality of Dauin, Negros Oriental. Demographically, the captivating island is characterized as densely populated with not more than 1,000 hospitable constituents.

Geographical Attributions of Apo Island Marine Sanctuary

Geographically, the Apo Island and Marine Sanctuary is strategically located about 25 kilometers south of Dumaguete City. Moreover, it extends its beauty and splendor at an approximate of 1.5 kilometers from north to south; and at least 1 kilometer more, from its east to west points respectively. Last not but the least, its height rises to about 120 meters above sea level.

On the other hand, if you want to have a personal glimpse of Apo Island’s majestic prestige and priceless ecological contribution via its plush and overpowering marine sanctuary there is no need for you to worry about the hassles of a long voyage. Unbelievably, it would only take a 30- minute travel time if you are going to ride a boat from the tranquil villages of Malatapay, Negros Oriental and Zamboanguita.

Clownfish at Apo Island (Photo Courtesy: Vincent Goyet @vgoyet on Instagram)
Clownfish at Apo Island (Photo Courtesy: Vincent Goyet @vgoyet on Instagram)

Tourism Development

Surprisingly, the Apo Island and Marine Sanctuary is one of the best known community-organized marine sanctuaries across the globe. Therefore, it has been widely acclaimed as one of the well-documented sanctuaries in the world, by the global science community.

Initially, a brilliant and notable Filipino marine scientist had excellently conceived the lasting idea of establishing an out of this world Philippine Marine Sanctuary; within the exhilarating charisma of Apo Island.

Pawikan at Apo Island (Photo Courtesy: Lorenzo Bernardo @enzoozne15 on Instagram)
Pawikan at Apo Island (Photo Courtesy: Lorenzo Bernardo @enzoozne15 on Instagram)


This noble environmental advocate is no other than but Dr. Angel Alcala, a notable marine scientist from the Siliman University Marine Laboratory. Prior to the completion of his famed environmental masterpiece and legacy for the Filipinos, it was not an easy job for Doc Angel. He had extensively explained to the natives and local fishermen of Apo Island the essentials of having a marine sanctuary of their own. He had laboriously done this very tedious mission through a three-year dialogue. Finally, Dr Alcala got the unanimous approval of these hardworking and dedicated people, through his convincing word power.

In 1982, the local fishermen within and around the parameters of the endearing Apo Island together with the resilient team of Siliman University  Marine Laboratory had earnestly found the most pristine and ideal area for the first- ever Filipino fashioned marine sanctuary in the world. Descriptively, the vast area where the awesome marine haven is situated measures 450 meters off the shoreline. Further, it extends an approximate of 500 meters more from the main shore of Apo Island. Therefore, this area became its primal sanctuary site.

Apo Island (Photo Courtesy: Natasha Swanstone @josiptumapa on Instagram)
Apo Island (Photo Courtesy: Natasha Swanstone @josiptumapa on Instagram)

From then on, the Apo Island and Marine Sanctuary had tumultuously created an overpowering influence that led to the numerous births of other marine sanctuaries in Dumaguete City, and all over the territorial boundaries of the Philippines. Today, Apo Island serves as a home to over 650 documented fish species. Additionally, it has an estimated 400 beautiful coral species which had originated from small bubble corals, big gorgonian brain corals and sea fans.

Marine Sanctuary: Apo Island (Photo Courtesy: Niklas Carlsson @bycarlsson on Instagram)
Marine Sanctuary: Apo Island (Photo Courtesy: Niklas Carlsson @bycarlsson on Instagram)

To prove that its natural wonders are really priceless and beyond compare, it has been cited by the Chicago Shed Aquarium, as its fountain of inspiration when this country had opened a Wild Reef Exhibit based on Apo Island’s surrounding reef and marine sanctuary. After five years of acting as an exceptional and flawless prototype of the Shed Aquarium in Chicago, the Sport Diver Magazine had included this heavenly island as one of the top 100 diving spots, the world over.

The Negative Tip of Apo Island Marine Sanctuary

Economically, the paramount industry in this glorious and well-endowed island is fishing. Conversely, its main fishing grounds have distances of about 500 meters away from the shorelines. In essence, this particular geographical estimation of Apo Island and its marine sanctuary has extensive coral reefs with an aquatic depthness of 60 meters.

Hence, to make their fishing activities a lot easier these men of the sea are employing these aquatic transports with all their might and immeasurable agility. These are as follows: Small and paddle-driven outrigger canoes and outboard motors. As for their legal and main fishing methods, the fishermen of this enticing marine sanctuary and island make use of gill nets, hook and line and the conventional bamboo fish traps.

Over the years, the island had suffered a big blow when its fishing industry was slowly dying due to the “negative tip” of this relaxing tourist spot. This alarming ecological and social dilemma had begun forty years ago. Prior to this irresolvable problem, this most frequented wonderland of nature’s fishing industry is remarkably stable as reflected by its ample fish quantities. In effect, this very promising and positive economic gauge was able to support the families of these fishermen, without resorting to illegal acts.

However, after the Second World War the negative effects of human population increased and the inevitable fishing pressure, paved the way for the vulnerability of the fishing industry to its “unsustainability” in every aspect.”

The Major Causes of Apo Island and Marine Sanctuary’s Negative Tip

The ecological malady of a negative tip in Apo Island was triggered by the introduction of four totally destructive fishing methods in the Philippines. These are:

Dynamite fishing– It is illegally executed by some fishermen, after World War II soldiers had left some explosives that were further developed during the ‘60s decade.

The Muro-ami Method– This was first used by the Japanese. In this kind of dangerous fishing technique, fish are chased through the use of nets by pounding on corals with  big rocks

Cyanide fishing– Introduced during the 1970’s to be used in an aquarium fish trade.

Small nets made of mesh- Employed in the worldwide marketing of newly-created nylon nets, resulting from tiny mesh beach seines and other small nets which were readily available in the province, during those years of economic uncertainty

Despite of their ill-effects to the fishing industry, many of Apo Island’s fishermen are resorting to these illegal methods of fishing; it is because these means are much more effective than the conventional ones. On the contrary, these fishing methodologies are detrimental to the continuing and evolving fishery sustainability endeavors of the Philippines. As far as its most undesirable effect is concerned, illegal fishing brings about an irreparable repercussion to the colorful fishing habitat of the country.

Although the Philippine Coast Guard had enforced the strictest laws and penalties with respect to this endless socio-ecological menace; still, this irreversible problem seems to be too difficult to arrest and resolve.

Apo Island (Photo Courtesy: Ryan Padilla @rcaps007 on Instagram)
Apo Island (Photo Courtesy: Ryan Padilla @rcaps007 on Instagram)

The Apo Island and Marine Sanctuary is a manmade resource that is both fashioned by the Divine and human geniality. Therefore, the Philippine government and its key agency must not take their political pleasures by simply looking at this ecological blasphemy without the swift implementation of their rules and laws.


Published on : 20/03/2018 by Puerto Parrot

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