The Verde Island sea passage, between the Philippine island of Mindoro and Batangas province, has been identified as the “centre of the centre” of the world’s marine shorefish diversity in a study by Kent Carpenter, IUCN Global Marine Species Assessment co-ordinator, and Victor Springer of the Smithsonian Institute.
These findings have inspired the President of the Philippines, Gloria Arroyo, to enact a new national conservation policy this week to protect the archipelagic country’s unique and rich wildlife, with particular attention to its diverse marine life.
The results of a 2004 study by Old Dominion University and the Smithsonian Institute, in collaboration with IUCN Red List partner Conservation International, revealed a peak in the concentration of marine biodiversity in the Verde Island passage, in what is already known to be one of the world’s centres for marine biodiversity: the Coral Triangle.
“The Indo-Malay- Philippines Archipelago, or Coral Triangle has long been considered an area of high marine biodiversity” says Kent Carpenter, a biology professor based at the Old Dominion University, USA. “ Indonesia, because of its greater area, may eventually be shown to have a greater overall marine biodiversity than the Philippines” he continued, “but there is a higher concentration of species per unit area in the Philippines, with the world’s highest concentration of marine species – including fish, shrimp, crabs, seaweeds, corals, sea turtles, and sea snakes”.
The Verde Passage is part of the Sulu-Sulawesi Seascape Project launched by Conservation International in 2005, to conserve the full range of biodiversity in the region that is home to threatened species including hawksbill, olive ridley and green sea turtles; humphead wrasse; giant groupers and giant clams.
President Arroyo called the Verde Passage a “critical marine corridor” that is vital to marine –based tourism, transportation and international shipping and praised all organizations working to protect the valuable marine ecosystems for the well-being of the nation and its people.
But Kent Carpenter warns that this major marine habitat is also listed as the most threatened in the world.
“Several studies confirm that the central Philippines region, from Luzon to Mindanao, has more marine species per unit area than any other place on the planet,” said Kent. “This area can be considered the marine counterpart to the Amazon River basin. Unfortunately the Philippines are also documented as having the highest level of threats to marine environments due to human interaction. It is therefore very timely that President Arroyo is taking this action, and that conservation organisations and their partners are focusing efforts to preserve the world’s most unique concentration of marine biodiversity”
The President’s executive order directs a previously created commission to convene immediately to implement a conservation plan to protect the Sulu-Sulawesi Seascape. It also specifically requires the commission to create a Verde Passage Task Force to plan how to best conserve the Verde marine corridor.
For more information please contact:
Professor Kent Carpenter, IUCN Global Marine Species Assessment coordinator
Tel: +1 757 683 4197
IUCN Species Programme Global Marine Species Assessment
Conservation International press release
Conservation International feature story