Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park (TRNP) is a marine protected area located in the Philippines, within the Coral Triangle, which is considered the global center of marine biodiversity. It’s easy to see why TRNP is a world-renowned site for scuba diving – the park is home to more than 1,200 marine species, including sea grasses and algae, corals, sharks, rays, fishes, sea turtles, seabirds and marine mammals. The park is also remote: only about 1,000 people visit it each year.
The Coral Triangle is well known for its rich marine biodiversity, and Tubbataha is an exceptionally healthy reef ecosystem. Because it’s so far from land, TRNP only started to feel the effects of human exploitation in the 1980’s. Recognizing its great biodiversity value, the government of the Philippines first protected the area through legislation in 1988. Protective regulations have only been strengthened since then; today the entire park is a no-take zone. Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park is an important asset for global conservation, as 181 of the species found there are threatened to some degree, from Vulnerable to Critically Endangered. The park is a breeding and rookery ground for many species of migratory and resident seabirds, including the Critically Endangered Christmas Island frigatebird (Fregata andrewsi). It is also a nesting site for Endangered green turtles (Chelonia mydas) and Critically Endangered hawksbill turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata).
Tubbataha’s extensive coral cover, geographic remoteness and high conservation status give its reefs a greater degree of resiliency. This strength may also be a result of its unique wave energy, tidal fluctuations and reef morphology.
Because Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park is an exemplary marine protected area that guards valuable ocean ecosystems, it has been awarded Platinum Global Ocean Refuge status this year. The Global Ocean Refuge System (GLORES) welcomes Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park to its network of strong marine protected areas that safeguard our ocean’s biodiversity.
GLORES is a Marine Conservation Institute initiative that seeks to protect at least 30% of every marine ecosystem in each region of the ocean in Global Ocean Refuges. Joining Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park as 2017 Global Ocean Refuges are Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument and Malpelo Fauna and Flora Sanctuary.
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