Geographic LocationApo Island is located in the central Philippines and is approximately 1km2 in size. The marine sanctuary runs along 0.5km of the islands South East coast and has a area of ~7km2 (ICCA Registry, 2010). Encompassed in the marine sanctuary are valuable healthy coral reefs that act as a nursery to many varieties of marine life. See the below map from MPAtlas that further outlines the geographic location of the Apo Island Marine Sanctuary.
Scientific BasisThe idea of a fully protected no-take marine sanctuary was first proposed by researchers at Silliman University after a notable decline in fish stocks was documented by local fisherman and researchers alike (Russ & Alcala, 1996). The idea was to protect key nursery areas of vital coral ecosystems to benefit the reef health an ecology as well as the livelihood of locals (Russ & Alcala, 1996).
Reef SystemThe fringing Apo Island reef system is thought to contain ~400 species of the suspected ~450 species of Philippine corals (ICCA Registry, 2010). For an extensive list of identified reef species in the Philippines, please click here. The reef acts as a nursery to many of the threatened reef species and allows fish to mature without the threat of being harvested. The protection of the healthy area of coral also means that there will be a high rate of larval recruitment from healthy reefs. The larvae may then spill outside the sanctuary bounds and establish new coral elsewhere (Marten, n.d.). The same is to be said for fish - when they mature in this area, they then wander outside of the sanctuary where they can be sustainably fished, thus benefiting the adjacent community (Roberts & Hawkins, 2000).
Species at RiskMany of the fish and coral species housed within the sanctuary are thought to be in relatively good shape thanks to the continuing monitoring of fish species from local fisherman. Species within the protected area have increased 8-fold since its implementation (Russ & Alcala, 1996). This was seen after 11 years of protection, and after 9 years, areas outside of the reserve started to show significant increases in numbers (Russ & Alcala, 1996). For this to occur, the rate of spill over must exceed the rate of removal. The below figure outlines the evidence of spill over from the Apo Island Marine Sanctuary to the adjacent waters and is taken from a study by G. Russ and A. Alcala.
A notable species at risk protected within the marine sanctuary is the green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas). Sea turtles are very important grazers for this ecosystem. They keep harmful macroalgae - that can take over reefs - in check. They also graze on sea grass beds, trimming the sea grass and maintain a healthy growth rate. The decline in seagrass habitat is thought to be linked to declining green sea turtle populations worldwide.
The unique and interesting part of the management strategy involved with the Apo Island Marine Sanctuary is that it is almost completely managed by local fishermen. After the fisherman adopted and understood the findings outlined by researchers at Silliman University, they formed the Marine Management Committee. With that said, the National Integrated Protected Area System (NIPAS) consisting of members from national, provincial, municipal and local levels - has the ultimate say into what goes on in the marine sanctuary, though they need little involvement due to the success that the locals have had in managing this resource. Many locals are not supportive of this management intervention because they have had success in the past without them and the fact that the national government now takes 25% of earnings generate from entrance fees to Apo Island waters (Marten, n.d.).