This project collected data on the condition of coral reefs in the municipalities of Dauis, Baclayon, and Panglao in Bohol. Surveys were assisted by 12 active international volunteers, CCE Foundation staff, and local area collaborators and partners. Objectives achieved during the expedition were: 1) to determine reef quality indicator values for seven study sites through broad area surveys using scuba and snorkel; 2) measure living and dead reef substrate cover, fish species richness and abundance; 3) monitor the aesthetic appearance of the sites in comparison to years past while noting human uses and impacts; 4) evaluate the management status of marine protected areas; and 5) recommend improved management actions.
Most study sites showed a stable or decreasing living hard coral cover in the shallow areas. However, there is an increasing trend in live coral cover in the deeper areas (7-8 meters). The average increase in live coral cover since 2003 is 9.5 percent from an average LHC cover of 38.9% in 2003 to 42.6% in 2007. The decrease in living coral on the shallow reefs may be due to poor enforcement of regulations in several of the marine protected areas. According to community interviews there is a need for more MPA information dissemination and education through and with the local community, as well as a need to educate tourists who utilize many of the shallow reefs during their recreation activities.
Fish density and species richness are generally low and decreasing at all sites surveyed except in the few sanctuaries that are effectively managed, which are San Isidro-Dau, Balicasag, and Tawala Marine Sanctuaries. Only San Isidro-Dau Marine Sanctuary showed an increasing trend in fish species richness. Pamilacan Marine Sanctuary has experienced a general decrease in fish species and abundance with a stable condition in live hard coral in the shallow and deep reefs. An upcoming area surveyed was Tawala Marine Sanctuary where there is continuing and strong law enforcement and management. It showed an increasing trend in fish abundance and biomass.
Observations and interviews with stakeholders indicate that most of the sanctuaries have decreased management efforts thus decreasing the quality of protection over their MPAs. This is due to a lack of training and funding available for trainings for the local communities. There is also an ongoing need for awareness-building and community education about the purpose and benefits of MPAs. Several communities, especially in Pamilacan Island, complained of increased presence of commercial fishers in their area who fish close to the island and their sanctuary. Due to lack of logistical assistance and equipment the community is unable to prevent them from poaching in their sanctuary.
Despite these findings, there is still an enthusiastic interest to protect coral reefs through the use of marine sanctuaries, all of which have been declared by municipal ordinance. Recommendations on how to improve MPA management in the sites surveyed include: increased efforts to educate the local community and tourists, collecting user-fees so that financial benefits are available, and most critically, continuing the management efforts through law enforcement and increased participation in sanctuary maintenance.
The declining trends in fish densities and biomass in most sites indicate a need to improve enforcement and require strong support from the local governments. It has been a recurrent lesson in coastal resource management that successful MPAs have to be strongly supported by the mayor and management bodies. To improve the marine protected areas in the BMT area, we recommend the following:
- Refine MPA management by resolving conflicts among management groups and between stakeholders;
- Empower MPA management groups;
- Strengthen partnership of LGUs and community management groups;
- Develop a simple and practical user-fee system implementation framework coupled with strong institutional support;
- Assess MPA boundaries;
- Setting a minimum size for all no-take sanctuaries in the Bohol Marine Triangle of 10 hectares would serve to improve opportunities for fish densities and biomass to increase substantially inside the MPAs;
- Education and awareness campaigns for the sanctuaries with a decreasing trend in management initiative and activities; and
- Regular implementation and updating of the management rating system for each site.