October 2019 News

Remember us? Yes we still exist and yes we realize it’s been a long time between newsletters. The great news is that we’ve still been working hard and supporting our marine conservation efforts around the world. So sit back and relax as we give you an update on what we’ve been up to as well as some topical news. PS. Hand on heart and fins, we promise you’ll be hearing for us more often.

New Program Funding

Coastal Conservation and Education Foundation

We’re continuing to support the finatabulous efforts of our partners the Coastal Conservation Foundation in the Philippines across 3 new works packages.

1. Project SMILE – The Sustainable Mangrove program through Information, Linkages and Ecopreneurship. The aim is the development of a Sustainable Mangrove Program in Barangay Biasong, Talisay, Cebu, Philippines by establishing Public-Private Partnership (PPP) with the local government of Talisay, the academe  (i.e., University of Visayas, local schools), the business sector and corporate partners to support mangrove protection and management, environmental conservation and ecopreneurship.

2. Project SEALED – Sustainable Environmental Advocacy through coastal Law Enforcement and Development in Siquijor Province – The Project aims to strengthen alliances and partnerships among local governments units and other stakeholders toward achieving sustainability for coastal resource management through coastal law enforcement, microfinance, and ecotourism development in the province of Siquijor.

3. Project SECURED – Sustainable Environmental Advocacy through Community development, Understanding marine ecosystems, Recovery of fish stocks, and Eco-camp Development) in Southeast Cebu. The aim to strengthen governance structures for MPA and/or MPA network management in at least seven municipalities in the island province of Cebu  (i.e., ADABOSS:  Argao, Dalaguete, Alcoy, Boljoon, Oslob, Santander, and Samboan) through participatory assessments of the biophysical and socio-economic status and conditions of priority MPAs and application of adaptive management strategies to improve management effectiveness, in partnership with the business sector.

Sea Women of Melanesia

We’re expanding our work in the coral triangle by partnering up with the Coral Sea Foundation to fund the Sea Women of Melanesia (SWoM) program in the Milne Bay Province of Papua New Guinea. This region has some of the highest marine biodiversity in the eastern Coral Triangle, and it forms the northern border of the Coral Sea.

Need – There is an urgent need for more marine reserves and Locally Managed Marine Areas (LMMA’s) within the province, to make this happen and for it to be effective, sustainable and scientifically robust, locals need to be trained. Enter the Sea Women of Melanesia (SWoM).

The Project – The (SWoM) program provides indigenous women with training in conservation theory, scuba diving and marine biology survey techniques so they have the skills to communicate the need for marine reserves to their local communities and are able to identify areas suitable for marine protected areas on their own coral reefs.

Aim: To hold a dedicated two-week training program for 10 Sea Women of Melanesia at the CICI facility in the Louisiade Archipelago towards the end of 2019. The focus would be on women from island communities the Milne Bay province, and the objectives would be to deliver these women a training program that covered fish and coral identification, marine survey techniques, LMMA theory, and guidelines for community engagement.

The marine science program delivery team would include Coral Sea Foundation CEO Dr Andy Lewis, along with CICI Project Manager Hayley Versace and Science coordinator Dr Johanna Leonhardt, with support from CICI staff and the senior SWoM dive instructor and biologist Naomi Longa.

Stay tuned for updates.

Blue News

UCF receives DGR Status

We’re pleased to announce that the Unico Conservation Foundation is now on The Register of Environmental Organisations and is endorsed as Deductible Gift Recipients by the Australian Taxation Office. What does this mean? Donations made to UCF are now tax deductible for the donor, so more money to support more marine conservation projects around the world.

More information on the type of projects that we’re committed to can be found here:

Concern for Melbourne’s Giant Spider Crabs

Conservationists have expressed concern over increased targeting of  Melbourne’s famous Giant Spider Crabs by recreational fishers during their annual winter migration. Luckily for the crabs our resident mermaid and UCF Board Member Sheree Marris is working closely with Government Agencies to find a solution.

Read more here: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-06-30/tensions-in-blairgowrie-over-giant-spider-crabs/11261234

Protecting Whale Sharks means more money

In what has been described as one of the world’s most surprising and successful alternative livelihood and conservation projects, former fishermen in Oslob Philippines have gone from earning just a US$1.40 a day on average, to US$62. How? By giving hundreds of thousands of people from around the world to unique experience of swimming with ocean giants, endangered whale sharks.

Strong profits have equated to strong conversation. No only does the revenue from whale shark swims help to create new tourism-based livelihoods for fisherman it pays for sea patrols and the management of five marine reserves and enforce fishery laws to stop destructive fishing along the 42km coastline. Destructive fishing has declined. Fish stocks and catch have increased and species.

Now the fishermen, only fish in their spare time. These incredible results are the driving force behind protecting whale sharks and coral reefs. “Once you protect our whale sharks, it follows that we an have obligation to protect our coral reefs because whale sharks are dependant on them,” said the mayor.

Read more here: https://theconversation.com/poor-filipino-fishermen-are-making-millions-protecting-whale-sharks-122451?fbclid=IwAR2whU8vpz3QQeX4f78rlFUPEMHWrW4VisgPku5jBox_q4fkJ-DT8Ye6p1Q

2019 Saving Philippine Reefs Expedition

In May 2019, Geoff, Roland and I joined in Saving Philippines Reefs at Moalboal . We were 3 of a small but select group of divers going there to help with coral reefs surveys. Geoff and I have been going annually since 2003 (except for 2017) and Roland is a more recent participant. It was good to see old friends from around the world and meet new faces joining for the first time.

The surveys are organised by the Coastal Conservation and Education Foundation (CCEF) in the Philippines. Each day we boarded a boat and got taken to our site where we surveyed the coral cover both inside and outside a small marine protected area (MPA). Sometimes we did 2 MPAs in a day, sometimes just one, but both sides of it. Dive surveys were undertaken at depth between 7-9m , where we lay out a 50m tape measure along the reef then record what was under it every 25cm. Once the survey is complete we would spend the rest of our air having a look around. Snorkels in 3m of water were also undertaken by swimming 50m then imagining a 1m square on the bottom and recording what the percentages of bottom cover were. 13 of these imaginary squares were done by each individual participating. At the end of the day, we input our data to the SPR database, then we could relax!

While the MPAs seemed to have good coral cover, and some of it was beautiful, we will have to wait for the official report to see if our impressions were correct. Some of the CCEF staff were responsible for counting fish. Our personal impression was that there were no big fish except at one of the dive sites, but again we will have to wait for the official report for confirmation of that.

On the last day we had a ‘fun dive’ – no survey. We went to see the sardine run. Millions of sardines milling around near an undersea wall. They disappear at night, and return during the day. They have not always been at that site and no-one knows why they are there, but understandably they attract lots of visitors!
We ended the trip with our last night dinner and photo contest. Most people submit photos and then they are voted on by everyone. A great way to end a trip! 

For more information about these trips check out: