Massive coral bleaching hits Batangas waters

Maricar Cinco

PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER/ANN – Coral enthusiasts and marine conservationists on Friday raised the alarm over a “massive” coral bleaching going on across Calatagan town, Batangas province, and elsewhere on the western coast of the Philippines.

The Philippine Coral Bleaching Watch, an online citizen reporting platform, said it had “received multiple bleaching reports” in parts of the waters off the provinces of Batangas, northern Palawan, Mindoro and Negros Occidental, and on Panay Island.

It said bleaching, due to an increase in the sea surface temperature, was “likely happening” in these areas, placing them under alert level 1 as defined by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

In Calatagan, a massive coral die-off is observed in the entire 72-kilometre shoreline of the Calatagan Peninsula from Barangay Gulod to Barangay Tanagan.

“While we’re too busy (battling the) pandemic on land, the same (problem) is going on underwater,” said Jessie delos Reyes, a local Bantay Dagat and team leader of the Reef Check Philippines.

ABOVE & BELOW: Bleached coral. PHOTO: PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER/ANN

Aboard a small boat, Delos Reyes on Friday documented reefs, as wide as “three to seven km” as they turn white underwater at a depth of 0.9-3m.

The corals, he said, were in a much “worse” condition than when previously seen in May.

Phenomenon Bleaching happens when corals lose the “colourful energy-giving plants” due to high temperature, the Philippine Coral Bleaching Watch said.

Marine conservationists have long blamed global warming for this phenomenon.

Delos Reyes said a massive bleaching hit Calatagan in 2014 and before that in 2012 and 2007.

“It’s massive because the whole area is bleaching and it’s continuing (as opposed to) concentrated (bleaching) when only small parts (of the reef is affected),” he said.

Delos Reyes said the bleaching might last for over a month.

“There’s really not much we can do to stop (the bleaching) except that we stop the coal-fired plants and open-dump burning in the communities,” he said.