Diving for Diversity 30x30 logo
Echidna nebulosa
Myripristis vittata
Parupeneus barberinoides
Centriscus scutatus
Hippocampus histrix
Click to see Dauin's coastal fishes

The 30x30 initiative

One of the wonders and delights of the natural world is the extreme diversity of life. This is particularly true for tropical reefs that abound with life in all colors, shapes and sizes. But like on land, marine biodiversity is under increasing pressure and action is needed to preserve what we have. Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are one of the tools to achieve this and the 2022 UN COP15 conference on biodiversity calls for 30% of land and marine surface to be set aside as protected areas by 2030. However, to make this 30x30 initiative happen we need all the help we can get.

What can divers do?

As divers we actually see the underwater world, both its beauty and the challenges due to local and global pressures on the environment. A greater awareness of, and love for, aquatic live is stimulating many divers to become more eco-conscious. Fortunately, there are several simple things you can do to make a difference.

  1. select destinations known to be good stewards of their coastal areas
  2. be ecosensitive, both above and below the water
  3. contribute to knowledge of marine biodiversity and habitats

Dauin's Marine Protected Areas

Dive sites near Bongo Bongo Divers in Dauin Negros Oriental (Philippines) has been a pioneer in establishing MPAs. Under leadership of Dr. Angel Alcala - the father of MPAs - the first MPA was created at Sumilon Island in 1974. Its success in boosting fisheries yield in surrounding areas due to the 'spillover effect' led to the creation fo more MPAs, including Apo Island. In addition to boosting its commercial fisheries, the protection has made Apo Island a top diving attraction in the Philippines.

The municipality of Dauin, which includes Apo Island, has built on this success by creating a series of MPAs along much of its shoreline. Rather than just protecting reefs, these MPAs also cover areas of seagrass and sand/rubble slopes that have become the prime muck diving areas that Dauin is famous for. The resulting boost in tourism has supplemented the fisheries benefit of the MPAs and MPA fees have been instrumental in funding the management and enforcement of no-take regulations. As a result, divers actively contribute to sustainable MPA operation just by doing what we love doing - Go Dive!

Diving for data

In addition to funding, MPA site selection and management requires information on the biodiversity and habitat types in the area. Most research has targeted fisheries, but fishes of commercial interest are just a small fraction of the full spectrum of biodiversity. Divers particulary enjoy these other, often smaller, fishes such as the many colorful reef fishes or cryptic critters that you find hidden in the cracks and crevices of the reef or on muck dives.
Any diver who has been to Dauin has firsthand knowledge of our incredible biodiversity. This is no surprise because Dauin is located in the global center of marine coastal fish diversity. However, unlike some other areas in the Philippines, the biodiversity in the area of Dauin and the wider area of the Visayas has not been thoroughly recorded.

This website is our contribution towards filling the biodiversity knowledge gap, using Dauin as our area of focus. In the first phase we have surveyed fish biodiversity along the coastline and on Apo Island. Just click to see the Illustrated Checklist showing images for the 790 different fish species we have recorded so far. Among them are two species that are new to science, several are "range extension" observations where we are the first to report them outside their known geographic range, and we have added about two dozen species to the list of Philippine fishes that is maintained by FishBase. Once all the data is entered into FishBase, Dauin will have the highest reported fish biodiversity in the Philippines!

What is next?

Sure, 800+ species is a crazy large number but at the end of our survey we were still adding on average one species per day. So there are many more species yet to be recorded. We are looking at ways to stimulate divers at BBD and elsewhere to contribute images so we can complete the inventory of coastal fish biodiversity for this region.
However, the most exciting and innovative addition to our project is to document the variety of habitats along our shores and map where each fish species lives during its various life stages. There is surprisingly little information about habit use of reef fishes. To conserve habitats, shouldn't you know what is out there and what roles they play in the bigger ecosystem?

Underwater Photography with a Purpose

If you are an underwater photographer with an interest in reef ecology then get in touch. You can just come diving and contribute images of new sightings or, with enough interest, we can create workshops about fish biodiversity, behavior, habitats, or the use of photography for documentation.

View from the beach in Dauin

Who we are

Bart Hazes

This project started as a labor of love by Bart Hazes who has been an active marine naturalist and scuba diver for over two decades. But the project only took off after partnering with Bongo Bongo Divers (BBD) who have been working with the local community and others to support Dauin's MPAs. Having retired early from his university faculty position, and having obtained his divemaster certification at BBD, Bart has led the biodiversity data collection as BBD's science officer with help of BBD dive guides who, between them, have decades of local dive experience.

Acknowledgments

Funding

We gratefully acknowledge the PADI Aware Foundation for funding our project.

PADI Aware Foundation logo

Created by: Bart Hazes
Last update: 2023-08-25