Marine species live a perilous life. Birds prey on them, larger fish and aquatic mammals feed on them, and bears snap up salmon on the way upstream to breed. The smallest changes in water temperature or pH can send generations of fish into a frenzy, inducing stress, disease, and eventual death. With all the interference, it is only continual evolution that is keeping many species afloat, able to withstand the ever-increasing sounds and dangers of the deep.
The thing is this – most of the marine life alive today were thriving before humans dipped their toes in the water. Ecosystems balanced themselves out, food chains were consistently cyclic, and most changes in the ocean’s parameters were easily evened out, allowing for life to thrive beneath the waves.
These days, however, overfishing, pollution, overcrowding of the ocean, and global warming are some of the worst culprits of endangering marine life. As the population continues to grow, the weight on land increases ever so drastically, and the pressure is constantly building on the waters below.
Everybody knows about the flight of the Bluefin Tuna by now. Well, it’s time to take a little look into the underwater world and some of the other species that are threatened with extinction off these coasts.
Mameng/ Humphead Wrasse or Parrotfish
One of the larger fish that dominate the coral reefs, the Humphead Wrasse was once feared and revered by the inhabitants of the reef and humans alike. Its thick lips and powerful body ensured that it stayed near the top of the food chain, and its oddly shaped head was of interest to those on land. They have been known to grow up to 1.2m long!
Unfortunately, overfishing of these majestic fish have caused its number to plummet and is a species of concern (lack of accurate data). Most hunt these large fish at night while they’re asleep and many of them are illegally exported out of the Philippines to its Asian counterparts, such as Singapore, Malaysia, and China. Watch out of them in the local wet markets/restaurants.
Sharks have a bad reputation (even though humans kill 20 million for every human a shark kills every year). However, the whale shark is known throughout the Philippines as one of the calmest creatures of the deep; even swimming with them is considered a luxurious tourist activity! These are the largest fish in the ocean and yet eat nothing but microorganisms in the water column.
Unfortunately, their numbers are now vulnerable. This is not only due to poaching for their enormous fins, but also due to habitat/prey loss, pollution from coastal development, and collision with boats. Tourism is also a huge issue, as many choose to touch, and even stand atop these giant fish, causing them to lose their slime coat and becoming vulnerable to disease.
Many are dying well before hitting breeding age (30+ years old), which is causing numbers to plummet.
Lapu-lapu/ Giant Grouper
Grouper holds a place in many people’s hearts – most remember eating it during special events growing up. Many of these monsters are found in Australia, but their numbers are scattered all through the Indo-Pacific region. They feed on a whole bunch of stuff underwater, including shark pups and young sea turtles.
Unfortunately, the lapu-lapu has been on the vulnerable list since the mid-1990s. Its numbers have not improved and while “vulnerable” is the least worrying of the endangered subgroups, it is still a worry. Overfishing is the largest issue for these fish, as many are caught and kept as juveniles, killing its chances of growing up and creating the next generation.
Yes, it was only recently that the sea cow’s numbers pulled back from the grave and saw it taken off the endangered list. These slow-moving, peaceful creatures are commonly found in the shallows of Coron, grazing on the sea grass and entertaining visitors by dancing about in the waters.
Unfortunately, the dugong is still under attack from two different sources. They live in the temperate shallows and global warming is hitting them a lot harder than it is many other animals. Their slow-moving nature is also costing them big time, as there have been many collisions with boats, and they are always at the losing end of that meeting.
Marine reserves have been put in place to protect these stunning marine species, but only time will tell if it was enough to give these creatures a boost.
This is not a specific species, as five out of the world’s seven sea turtle species live within the reefs surrounding the Philippines (with another visiting during the warmer months)! Sea turtles spend most of their time surfing the currents, frequently surfacing to breathe, and plunging into the shallows to munch on crustaceans.
Unfortunately, six out of seven sea turtle species are currently endangered (with the last one, the flatback, data deficient), and have been for a while.
Unfortunately, six out of seven sea turtle species are currently endangered (with the last one, the flatback, data deficient), and have been for a while. Not only are they dealing with entanglement in fishing gear, poaching of their eggs, meat, and shells, and global warming, but pollution of the ocean, especially plastics, and marine debris are often found ingested by these turtles and being its cause of death.
Two are vulnerable, two are endangered, and two critically endangered. Their numbers are dropping and their time is running out.
Many of these sea creatures are known by people and yet are given little thought. Some on this list are still actively consumed to this day, while others are still being exploited behind the open market. Just because these animals live under the ocean and are not actively visible does not mean there should not be a conversation about helping those in need.
There are only five (10 if counting each sea turtle species) species listed here. Many others live under the surface and are screaming out for help. SeventyOne Magazine does its best to help raise awareness and set up a platform, and the Wave tries very hard to create conversation. It is now up to you to help bring back the creatures of the deep.