In 2005, the International Union for Conservation of Nature and the Smithsonian Institution declared the Verde Island Passage in Batangas as the most diverse marine ecosystem in the world.
Scientists Kent Carpenter and Victor Springer recorded a total of 1,736 overlapping species of corals and marine species thriving in the vast and deep waters of the Verde Island Passage. Areas that have the biggest concentration of marine life are located in the diving networks in Batangas and can be accessible from diving resorts and company outing venues.
From a bird’s eye view, the Verde marine ecosystem appears like a narrow strait separating two provinces in the Philippines. To the locals living in the coastlines of Batangas and Mindoro, it is but a fishing ground, and to the public, an important shipping route for passengers, goods, and services. But, to marine scientists Carpenter and Springer, and the many diving enthusiasts in the country, the real beauty and purpose of the strait lies deep in the water.
Sustaining Life and Biodiversity
The passage has been declared as the proverbial heart of the Coral Triangle, or the apex of aquatic life on Earth. It is home to 60% of the world’s known corals and marine flora and fauna. But scientists note that this percentage will rise as there are still many unexplored areas.
We all know that the Philippines is one of the two megadiverse countries in the world, but this level of concentration is certainly unprecedented. Future expeditions will surely add much more rare and new species to the list.
Protecting the Verde Grande Passage
While the passage has earned the Philippines an impressive title as a major biodiversity hotspot, this level of abundance needs extra protection. Not only is the strait a major source of livelihood for small fishermen and water-based tourism operators, it also hosts commercially valuable aquatic species.
This aquatic utopia is facing bigger threats every year. Pollution, overfishing and destructive fishing, poaching and overpopulation are considered the most serious threats to the passage. And it will remain highly vulnerable to climate change, large-scale mining, shipping activities, and more.
As new threats add to the list, various stakeholders in Batangas and Mindoro have initiated large-scale projects with a long-term goal of protecting the passage. Using the rich data gathered in previous expeditions, a five-year initiative was launched by the Department of Natural Resources. Much are yet to be known about this megadiverse passage, and the responsibility in protecting it lies on those who benefit the most from it.