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Philippines

Puerto Galera

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Conservation benefit: Seagrass protection through mapping and public outreach campaign

Date Approved: 02.2021

Seagrass

This project protects seagrass, which traps more CO2 than any other marine ecosystem, slowing global warming.

This project funds the mapping of seagrass beds near Puerto Galera, an area of rich biodiversity in the Philippines’ famed Verde Island Passage. In just one 2015 expedition, biologists, including Dr. Terry Gosliner of the California Academy of Sciences, found 100 new species there. The Puerto Galera area is home to huge numbers of fish species, whale sharks, sea turtles, and an enormous variety of corals. There are also extensive seagrass beds.

Seagrass provides myriad environmental benefits. It forms the base of complex marine food webs; shelters many fish, crustaceans, and other animals during some part of their life cycle; reduces coastal erosion and storm damage; and improves water quality. Perhaps most important, an acre of seagrass can store about three times as much carbon as an acre of rainforest. But seagrass is rapidly disappearing around the world.

In the Verde Island Passage, a main threat to seagrass comes from boat anchors. There are many boats, carrying snorkelers and divers from around the world, and their anchors tear up the plants. Because seagrasses are so slow-growing, the meadows may not recover for decades, if ever.

A 2020 Seacology project mapped seagrass beds around Formentera Island, in the Mediterranean, and used the data in a free smartphone app that lets boat operators avoid dropping their anchors on seagrass. The mapping data collected here will be added to the app’s database. Soon, boat operators in the Philippines, like those in the Mediterranean, will be able to avoid damaging seagrass beds.

We will promote the free app with posters, media (traditional and social), and outreach to dive operators and boat charter companies. Many tourists, and even many boat operators, don’t realize that seagrass is both critically important and threatened. So we will also stress the importance of seagrass conservation.

Check out the project on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Project Updates

September 2021

The Seagrass Maps PH app is now available! Download it from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store. Boat operators and villages are already using it to avoid damaging seagrass beds.

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June 2021

The seagrass mapping is already done, and the data should be added to the phone app soon. The outreach campaign is focusing on increasing public awareness of seagrass and explaining its ecological importance, with social media and posters. When the app becomes available, communications will emphasize using it to avoid damaging seagrass.

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