Apo Island ‘ray of hope’

Apo Island Marine Reserve in central Philippines is a ‘ray of hope’ for oceans around the world, Greenpeace said Wednesday during the visit of the ship MY Esperanza to the famous reserve.

The Esperanza was welcomed in pristine Apo Island by the local community who displayed a 20 meter long banner by the shore, with the words ‘Marine reserves: hope for the oceans.’

The Esperanza’s visit to Apo Island highlights how the establishment of such protected areas in the oceans is a key solution to the crises that seas worldwide face.

The visit is part of the Philippine leg of the Esperanza’s global Defending our Oceans tour and follows two weeks of campaigning against marine pollution in different parts of the country.

“Apo Island has always been the model of hope for coastal communities in the Philippines. It demonstrates how reserves can effectively restore the productivity and biodiversity that once characterized the seas, and shows how more reserves around the globe will mean a better chance for the oceans to recover,” said Greenpeace Southeast Asia campaigner Daniel Ocampo.

Recent studies show that the impact of human activity on marine ecosystems have reached a critical tipping point. Greenpeace is calling for 40% of the world’s oceans to be protected as marine reserves in order to reverse the current decline in the health of our oceans.

Greenpeace considers the visit to Apo Island significant. Scientists recognize the Philippine archipelago as the world’s centre of marine biodiversity but the country’s rich marine ecosystem is among the most highly threatened in the world.

The island, however, clearly presents the solution. Apo Island’s reefs, now known for their astounding variety of marine life, was, only three decades ago, substantially degraded by destructive fishing practices. The establishment of the reserve was a crucial factor to the impressive recovery.

Many governments and institutions accept the importance of establishing marine reserves, but effective global action to increase areas of protection in our oceans has yet to take place. It is therefore also important for governments to realize that protecting the oceans’ general welfare should be a priority.

In the Philippines, for example, despite strong local programs for the establishment of reserves such as in Apo Island, the country’s rich biodiversity still continues to be undermined by poor national governance.

The government’s delayed and insufficient responses to oceans disasters such as the recent oil slick involving Petron, as well as toxic spills involving Lafayette mining in Rapu Rapu Island indicate a clear bias toward corporate interests rather than environmental conservation.

“Saving the oceans means stopping the threats to marine ecosystems at the same time as we set aside areas for its protection and rehabilitation. In this way, Apo Island and other marine protected areas throughout the globe can effectively ensure the future of our oceans,” said Dr. Janet Cotter of Greenpeace’s Science Unit.

Source: Greenpeace