There are more than a thousand and one things that we Batanguenos can be proud of, one of which is the Verde Island passage which is declared as the center of the center of Marine Shorefish biodiversity. This passage which is considered to be one of the most busiest sea lanes in the country can be found in between the provinces of Batangas and Mindoro.
The underwater reefs in the Verde Island passage are called home to nearly 60% of the worlds known shore fish. This is how American Biologists Kent Carpenter & Victor Springer of the World Conservation Union describes the Verde Island Passage in their recent study. Carpenter also said that the passage is the marine counterpart of the Amazon River Basin, making this dive site dubbed as “CENTER” of the center of the most diversed marine ecosystem in the world.
Sea turtles like hawksbills, olive ridley, and green turtles; humphead wrasses, giant groupers and giant clams are present in the Verde Island Passage. These are all considered to be threathened species which are close to extinction. However, there are no ordinances on the protection of these marine species and over-fishing in the area is common. A short-lived ‘park fee’ scheme for the Verde Island drop-off dive site was soon dropped when it was discovered that the revenue was being used to buy better fishing gear and hence removing fish at a higher rate. Humphead wrasses are especially threatened and divers often go years without spotting a single individual. It was particularly noted the rare red fin wrasse (Cirrhilabrus rubripinnis) thrives in Verde Island.
Moreover, the area has more than 300 species of corals, which is considered one of the largest concentrations of corals in the country or even in the whole world. Coral health is generally good, though the effects of global warming and increased pollution, may still lead to drop in diversity.
The 2006 declaration urged President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to launch the first National Biodiversity Conference in Verde Island Resort in Batangas City. By the way, Isla Verde is a barangay of Batangas City. The said confab was also in cooperation with Department of Environment and Natural Resources and other 300 participants from private, government at non-government organizations, and the academe.
Meanwhile the aim of the Philippine Biodiversity Conservation Priority-setting Program, is to create a concrete protection and conservation programs to be executed in the areas near the Batangas bay.
It was reported that the Philippines is one of the only two countries in the world which are considered to be “world’s megadiversity country and biodiversity hotspot”, the other one is Madagascar. It is more than a good news right? But then, having the center of the center of marine shorefish biodiversity is a big responsibility. There is a call for all of us to act and save this wonderful gift of nature.
It is said that “Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand to it. Whatever he does to the web he does to himself” and with this, the conservation of the rich biodiversity of our very own Verde Island passage, is in our hands.