The first marine protected areas (MPAs) were established in the Philippines in 1974, and today there are 562. Of these, 557 are coral reef MPAs aimed at enhancing fish yields and other economic uses, while at the same time protecting reef habitats and biodiversity.
Three of these are off Biri. The Biri Municipality Marine Reserve covers 549 hectares (not including the Sanctuaries within it), in which fishing is restricted. Within the Reserve are the Magtutuka Rock Fish Sanctuary and the Pio del Pilar Fish Sanctuary. Inside the Sanctuaries, all fishing is prohibited.
In addition, in 2015 the regional Protected Areas Management Board designated an area in which Biri Initiative could demonstrate the effectiveness of Biri Buds. We call this area the Biri Initiative Coral Restoration Zone. Although it does not have the protected status of the two sanctuaries, it is adjacent to the island's centre of population, so illegal fishing methods are not used here.
Coral Restoration Zone
The Biri Initiative Coral Restoration Zone is an area along the island's shoreline extending out to a depth of about 15 meters. One reason it was chosen as a proving ground for Biri Buds is that its natural coral reef is fairly healthy but with areas damaged by typhoons. Once Biri Buds have proven their worth here, it will be time to deploy them in other areas where the reefs have been heavily damaged by illegal fishing methods.
By the end of 2017, we will have deployed 150 Biri Buds in the Coral Restoration Zone, along with 100 frames of iron rebar specially designed for cultivating fragments of hard coral. These fragments are not cuttings from live corals, but are gathered from the sea bed following heavy seas. Once these fragments have grown sufficiently large, they will be transferred onto the Biri Buds.
In addition to being a proving ground, the Coral Restoration Zone also serves as an educational resource. Tourists and marine biologists are encouraged to participate in the deployment of Biri Buds, and in time we intend to provide tours for classes of local schoolchildren and college students.
For definition purposes the following terms were agreed upon in a national workshop and published (Miclat and Ingles, 2004):
Marine protected area (MPA): Any specific marine area that has been reserved by law or other effective means and is governed by specific rules or guidelines to manage activities and protect part or the entire enclosed coastal and marine environment.
Marine sanctuary: An MPA where all extractive practices, such as fishing, shell collection, seaweed gleaning and collecting of anything else is prohibited. It also allows for control of other human activities, including access, in order to protect the ecosystem within the specific site.
Marine reserve: An MPA where strict sanctuary conditions are not mandated for the entire area yet there is still a desire to control access and activities, such as boating, mooring and various fishing techniques. It allows for zones that include a sanctuary area.
Marine park: An MPA where multiple uses are encouraged that emphasize education, recreation and preservation; usually implemented by zonation schemes that can include a sanctuary area (White, 1988).