This project will protect both coral reef and mangrove forest. The reef is the “fringing” type, close to shore, and contains both soft and hard corals. It teems with fish, including grouper, snapper, threadfin bream, rabbitfish, parrotfish, trevally, jack, barracuda, mackerel, and anchovy. Whale sharks, giant clams, and green sea turtles are seen there. Spinner and Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins, as well as humpback whales—species that have been declining elsewhere in the Philippines—are found nearby.
The mangrove forest, which contains at least five species of mangrove, protects the villages from storm damage and provides a nursery for reef fish. Ducks and other migratory birds visit during summer.
Human activities threaten both the mangrove and reef. On the reef, the biggest problem is illegal fishing; in the last three years, an average of 30 incidents has been reported each year. Fishers scoop up everything in their path and damage the sea floor. In the mangroves, the biggest threat is from illegal settlers who cut trees to build houses and make charcoal.
The barangays (villages) of Alabat Municipality will set aside 277 acres of reef as a no-take marine reserve. Community members who have been trained as fish wardens, along with army and police officers, will patrol the MPA. The municipal government will strictly enforce a no-construction rule in 47 acres of mangrove forest.
A Seacology grant will let the community build a community center and 250-meter boardwalk in Barangay Angeles. These facilities will be used for environmental education and ecotourism, in coordination with local schools and youth groups. And because of the location, the boardwalk will allow community members to better monitor the mangrove forest and tidal flats.
This project came about because Alabat officials were impressed by the environmental and ecotourism benefits of the Seacology project in Agdangan, on Luzon Island. The Agdangan community is protecting a marine area and mangroves, and used a Seacology grant to build an environmental center and boardwalk.