Tubbataha30: Reefs for Keeps

Sooty Terns Toobataha by Gregg Yan

Celebrating 30 Years of Marine Conservation

On Saturday, 11 August 2018, the Tubbataha Protected Area Management Board (TPAMB) is commemorating the 30-year anniversary of the establishment of the Tubbataha Reefs as a marine protected area.

Tubbataha30: Reefs for Keeps celebrates the preservation of Tubbataha’s abundant fish, coral reefs, and seabirds as well as the reefs’ huge contribution to Philippine food security and the marine environment. Tubbataha is an inspiration to scientists, conservationists and artists throughout the world.  It is a member of the East Asian-Australasian Flyway Partnership which and aims to protect migratory waterbirds, their habitat and the livelihoods of people who depend on them.

“All of the signs are that Tubbataha Reef is nearing what we believe to be the true natural state,” says John McManus, a marine biologist at the University of Miami. “This is an amazing thing that’s happened”, he said in his interview with National Geographic last year.

Weeklong Activities August 11-17, 2018

An event in partnership with SM City Puerto Princesa

-Photo Exhibit:

Because we could not bring everyone to Tubbataha, we are bringing Tubbataha to everyone through this photo exhibit. The photo exhibit features 15 mostly underwater images captured by Filipino photographers. Two images of the tiger shark, flagship species, or icon of Tubbataha, is exhibited in two images.

-360 Degree Virtual Reality Goggles:

When His Serene Highness Prince Albert II of Monaco visited Tubbataha in 2016, he commissioned the development of a video of his trip in 360° format for the Oceanographic Institute of Monaco. In keeping with the advocacy his great-grandfather, Prince Albert I, of ‘knowing, loving, and protecting the oceans, he donated the video to Tubbataha so that it may reach many and begin the cycle of ‘know, love and protect’ all over again. The 360° VR goggles were donated by Patricia Zobel de Ayala.

-Storytelling Sessions:

Three different children’s books tell the story of sharks and their importance to the ocean. The stories aim to change the common belief that sharks are vicious and situate these maligned animals in their rightful place and role in the ocean. These fun and engaging sessions will be facilitated by The Storytelling Project.

-Arts and Craft Session:

Participants of the storytelling sessions are encouraged to fashion the arts and crafts projects using discarded materials such as toilet paper core and plastic bottles with themes coming from the shark stories.

-Film Showing:

The internationally awarded Tubbataha film, Reefs, developed by the Antonio O. Floirendo Foundation, Inc., will be shown. Short video clips of divers and dive operators in Tubbataha will be shown as another means of bringing Tubbataha to Puerto Princesa.

-Trick Eye Wall:

An ocean seascape with the Tubbataha Big Five: tiger shark, hawksbill turtle, manta ray, Napoleon wrasse and dogtooth tuna, will serve as backdrop for ‘under the sea’ inspired photos.

-Hidden Object Game:

The Tubbataha Big Five is hidden somewhere in a seascape full of marine life.  Find them and get a chance to win prizes.

About The Tubbataha Big Five Award

To recognize the invaluable contributions of various people, groups, or organizations, the first Tubbataha Big Five Awards will be given to five people who made a major difference in raising the profile of the Park and enhancing its conservation.

In 2003, we commemorated the 15th anniversary of the establishment of Tubbataha as a marine protected area. We celebrated and recognized the Philippine Navy, the Philippine Coast Guard, and the marine park rangers, who guard Tubbataha against destruction. We also acknowledged during that event one of the staunchest NGO supporters of the Park, WWF-Philippines.

On our 25th anniversary in 2013, we honored the people behind the creation of the Park; from Mr. Bebot Sta. Cruz who dreamed and acted to keep the Reefs protected, to the journalists and politicians who helped make it happen. 

On this our 30th anniversary, we want to thank the people from the private and public sector who volunteered their talent, their time, and their treasure. Through their work they have raised the profile of Tubbataha here and abroad and enhanced the protection of the Reefs. 

The vibrancy of life in Tubbataha is said to be the marine version of the rich African savannahs. Former WWF President, Mr. Lory Tan, together with other Tubbataha supporters, suggested many years ago that we come up with the marine version of the African Big Five. Dive professionals helped us identify our Big Five amidst arguments and forced agreements. In the end, we concurred that Tubbataha’s Big Five would be species that are cherished by the scuba diving community, are rare, or are internationally protected. We came up with the following: 

-Tiger shark (Scientific name: Galeocerdo cuvier, Conservation status: Data Deficient)

Tubbataha’s flagship species.
Tiger sharks are apex predators and used to be common if Philippine waters but are now mostly seen only in Tubbataha.

-Dogtooth tuna (Scientific name: Gymnosarda unicolor, Conservation status: Least Concern)

An apex predator and commercially-important species generally fished out in most areas

-Giant Manta Ray (Scientific name: Mobula birostris, Conservation status: Vulnerable)

Vulnerable to extinction and is magnificent to watch at it glides through the water.

-Hawksbill turtle    (Scientific name: Eretmochelys imbricate, Conservation status: Critically Endangered)

Critically endangered and protected worldwide, however, collection of its eggs threaten its population.

-Napoleon wrasse (Scientific name: Cheilinus undulates, Conservation status: Endangered)

Gone from most of its range worldwide and is now in danger of extinction.

These Tubbataha icons symbolize a robust and balanced marine ecosystem. Their presence tells us that there is adequate food to support them and that our reefs are healthy.

Like the iconic Tubbataha Big Five, the support of our awardees enabled us to achieve a robust and balanced marine Park. Their continued presence in our lives tells us that our Reefs will stay in a stable state. For their selfless dedication and concern, let us recognize and salute the 2018 Tubbataha Big Five Awardees!

The Tubbataha30: Reefs for Keeps celebration is supported by:

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources 

The Provincial Government of Palawan 

Pilipinas Shell Foundation, Inc. 


SM City Puerto Princesa

Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park: Background Information

Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park is a 97,030-hectare Marine Protected Area (MPA) in Palawan, the westernmost Philippine province. It is located 150km southeast of Puerto Princesa City, at the heart of the Coral Triangle, the global centre of marine biodiversity.
 The reefs of Tubbataha and Jessie Beazley are considered part of Cagayancillo, a remote island municipality roughly 130 kilometers to the northeast, inhabited mainly by fisherfolk.

Tubbataha is composed of two huge coral atolls – the north atoll and the south atoll – and the Jessie Beazley Reef, a smaller coral structure about 20 kilometres north of the atolls.

The park contains roughly 10,000 hectares of coral reef, lying at the heart of the Coral Triangle – the global center of marine biodiversity. Scientists have been visiting these reefs since the 1980s, and their research has shown that Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park is home to no less than:

  • Over 600 species of fish
  • 360 species of corals (about half of all coral species in the world)
  • 24 species of sharks and rays
  • 14 species of dolphins & whales
  • 100 species of birds
  • And also nesting Hawksbill & Green sea turtles

Tubbataha is considered both a mecca for scuba divers and model for coral reef conservation.

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