Nov 24th - Dec 12th, 2000
10% of corals studied
Estimated 80% up to 5m, 30-50 % deeper
3 seen in area
Starfish Island is located in Honda Bay, about 20 miles from the city of Puerto Princessa in Palawan. The reef surrounding Starfish Island was chosen as a study site, a surprisingly healthy area compared to the rest of the bay.
A large five star resort called Dos Palmas that supports ecotourism is located about 5 miles from this site. At the resort, a conservation office is operated by the hotel's manager. They are undergoing their own study of large animals in the area such as dolphins and whale sharks.
Starfish Island's small resort has 5 bungalows, sheltered picnic tables, a snack area, and a sandy beach. Most visitors come from the mainland for the day via motorized banca (the local word for the out-riggered Filipino boats). Wind power is their energy source and they have a sewage waste recycling system in place. Their beach seems to be clean and well looked after. At the canteen, cans and bottles were separated to be recycled.
Unlike many of the other sites visited in the Philippines, this is not a sanctuary. We did not have to pay a fee to dive here, nor were we watched closely by locals. There seem to be no restrictions on fishing. A small holed net is located off Starfish Island close to our study site.
Fish: There seemed to be a large variety of fish species, however not an abundance in population, although an abundance of juveniles was noted. Fish also seemed to be uncommonly curious and friendly. Very few pelagics were seen in this area, possibly a result of over fishing. Some rare species were spotted like the Mandarin fish. There was an abundance of damsels, wrasses, cardinal fish, butterflyfish and fusiliers.
Coral: In the shallows there are a number of different species of coral, although Porites massive dominates the area. On the reef slope and slightly deeper there are large monospecific patches, notably Echinopora horrida, digitate Porites colonies and Oxypora spp. In addition we saw a lot of Fungia spp., Herpolitha spp., Seriatopora hystrix, Acropora spp., Pavona spp, Galaxea spp., Millepora spp, and Pachyseris spp.
Although coverage was thick, much of the coral in this area seemed to be suffering. Bombing and cyanide fishing has affected this area - the reef has many patches of coral rubble and algae suggesting past attacks but it was not widespread on the reef. The water is filled with sediment although this does not seem to rest on the corals and affect their health. The high sediment levels are possibly due to the construction of a road on the mainland and rain washing the dirt into the bay. There are also a number of rivers that flow into the bay. Sediment runoff has also reduced visibility drastically - the best visibility we had was 8m. There is a very high level of algae, both filamentous and macroalgae, that affects most if not all of the corals seen. Most digitate Porites for example only had their tips free of filamentous algae. The overall color of the bay's water bears a green hue, suggesting a high volume of algae as well as low salinity. The nearby rivers providing fresh water aid the growth of algae.