Bleaching threatens corals in world-class dive spot in Sarangani

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/05 October) — A world-class dive spot in Maasim, Sarangani might already be experiencing the phenomenon called coral bleaching, a foreign diving enthusiast today told MindaNews.

John Heitz, an American scuba diver, said that 10 to 20 percent of the corals in the area showed signs of fading colors.

Coral bleaching is supposedly caused by global warming or the steady rise in the mean temperature of the earth’s atmosphere.

Heitz said that divers noticed the coral bleaching phenomenon about two weeks ago.

Barangay Kamanga in Maasim town boosts of a world-class dive spot, where one need not wander far away from the shore to experience the dazzling submarine beauty.

Heitz said he recorded temperatures of 86 to 87 degrees Fahrenheit in one of his recent diving expeditions.

“That’s pretty warm as I usually get a temperature of 840F,” he added.

He said some of those affected by the bleaching are the acropora table corals, soft corals and pink hydroids.

“They’re losing their color, with the pink hydroids also losing their branches [as a result of the bleaching],” he said.

With the coral bleaching rearing its ugly head in Maasim, Heitz expressed hopes it is not too bad to allow the corals to recover and not die.

Sought for comment, Sani D. Macabalang, regional director of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, said the agency was not aware of the coral bleaching phenomenon that hit Maasim town.

He said he will instruct BFAR personnel to verify the report.

In a statement last year, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has warned of a widespread and severe coral bleaching episode that will cause immense damage to some of the world’s most important marine environments in the coming months.

The US Government’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has predicted severe bleaching in parts of the Coral Sea, which lies adjacent to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, and the Coral Triangle, WWF said.
The Philippines is part of the Coral Triangle, a 5.4 million square kilometer expanse of ocean in the Indo-Pacific which is considered the center of the world’s marine life.

“This forecast bleaching episode will be caused by increased water temperatures and is the kind of event we can expect on a regular basis if average global temperatures rise above 2 degrees,” said Richard Leck, Climate Change Strategy Leader for WWF’s Coral Triangle Program.

The Coral Triangle, stretching from the Philippines to Malaysia and Papua New Guinea, is home to 75 percent of all known coral species. More than 120 million people rely on its marine resources.

With the intense El Nino in 1998, coral bleaching hit the Philippines, with the tourism and fisheries industry in El Nido, Palawan reportedly suffering $15 million in losses. (MindaNews)