Partnering to protect the oceans and marine life

Janine Bobadilla
Date: November 1, 2023

Pacific Environment awards prize to largest locally managed Marine Protected Area

Janine Bobadilla (first from left) and Michael Atrigenio (second from left) awarded the Largest Locally-managed MPA Award among the MPA Finalists in the Para El Mar MPA Awards to Brgy.. Ermita Marine Protected Area in the Philippines. Photo courtesy of MPA Support Network.

We have just returned from another successful partnership with the Para El Mar MPA Awards (for the sea), a biennial event that aims to recognize and award the outstanding locally-managed marine protected areas (MPAs) and MPA networks in the Philippines. The awards were spirited, inspirational, filled with lessons learned and successes that are happening across the many MPAs throughout the Philippines.

Pacific Environment is 100% committed to do our part to achieve the 30×30 goal to conserve 30% of the world’s lands, inland waters, coastal areas and oceans by 2030. We are making huge strides with our partners to reach these ambitious goals not only in the Philippines, but also in Vietnam, Thailand and  Malaysia. Last year, we traveled to the 15th biodiversity summit in Montreal, Canada where the global community reached a watershed conservation agreement on the 30×30 initiative. And, we celebrated an important win when our year of working with the countries of Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines, helped in encouraging them to agree on a 30×30 marine protection target.

That win was just one step towards global ocean protection, but we knew that we needed more work on the ground to turn commitments into action.

That’s why we were proud to, once again, support the Para El Mar MPA Awards. This time, we introduced a  new special category in 2023: the “Largest Locally-Managed Marine Protected Area” among the MPA Finalists. This year’s winner was Barangay Ermita Marine Protected Area in San Carlos City, Negros Occidental, Philippines. This massive sanctuary protects 223 hectares (with 54 hectares of no take zone) of marine life teeming with rich coral reefs, turtles, angel fish, fusiliers, butterflyfish, and more.

This award is given to incentivize the locally-managed MPA that has a bigger area to contribute to the 30 x 30 target, but at the same time  having an effectively-managed conservation area. Thus, looking both at the quantity and quality of the MPA and yielding positive outcomes for fisheries, marine biodiversity, and conservation.

Marine Protected Areas are specific areas of the sea that have been reserved by law or other effective means with established management guidelines in order to protect and conserve the area. Effectively-managed MPAs help protect and conserve various marine life, leading to higher productivity, functional food webs and healthier ecosystems. 

Brgy. Ermita MPA is a boon to the local economy, to eco-tourism and to the fishing community. By protecting the coral reef within the MPA and creating a fish reservation area, the MPA has protected livelihoods and enhanced the local economy – as fish stocks recover and tourists come to explore the coral and other sea life of the area. Community participation among its local stakeholders also helped strengthen community-based ecotourism in the MPA. Additionally, Brgy. Ermita MPA has set the most substantial core zone or no-take zone, where all extractive activities are strictly prohibited, as stipulated in the Municipal Ordinance that established the MPA and designated its specific area for rigorous protection. 

This award builds upon our work from the 2021 partnership with the Para El Mar MPA Awards, where the 1st place winner of the most outstanding locally-managed MPA was actually the very first locally managed marine protected area in the country! Sumilon Island Fish and Marine Sanctuary was named as the 2021 Outstanding Locally-Managed MPA and the recipient of the Saviors of the Sea Recognition from the PNP Maritime Group. Sumilon Island Fish and Marine Sanctuary, located in Oslob, Cebu was the very first municipal MPA in the country and was established in 1974. 

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