As corals worldwide find themselves besieged, Tubbataha Reef remains shockingly pristine. Why?
The year was 1981, and Angelique Songco, then an employee of a dive boat, found herself marveling at the atolls before her, the coral heart of the Philippines. But over the next few years, she saw humans’ shadow creep over the waters of the Sulu Sea.
Fishermen from as far away as the province of Quezon, some 370 miles distant, filed into Tubbataha Reef, one of the world’s most biodiverse—for their livelihoods’ sake. The results were devastating. Dynamite killed fish where they swam; cyanide squirted over corals stunned fish into submission. On the reef’s islets, fishermen gathered seabirds and their eggs.
“Without even understanding the ecological value of the marine environment, I was convinced that such beauty must be protected,” Songco told the World Wildlife Fund in 2015.