Although declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in December 1993, the Tubbataha reef of the Philippines didn’t reach the global conscious until a US Navy minesweeper grounded on the reef in January 2013. The Philippines government and its citizens were devastated over the incident, which damaged an area of reef measuring more than 2,345 square meters in total. In order to protect the reef from further damage, the decision was made to dismantle the ship and carefully lift it off the reef. Incredibly, there were no fuel or oil spills as a result of the collision or the salvage operation.
Fines were allocated to the US government, and once the last remaining piece of the ship was removed from the reef in March 2013 and restoration work was underway, the reef was again besieged in April 2013 by a Chinese fishing vessel that turned out to be carrying poachers and the frozen carcasses of a critically endangered and internationally protected terrestrial species. Suffice to say, 2013 was a big year in Tubbataha reef news for this once remote and pristine location in the Coral Triangle, and not in a positive way!
So what has become of the Tubbataha reef now that all offending vessels have been removed from its territory? Although the Philippines government is still awaiting compensation from the US for the damages assessed, which totaled approximately $1.4 million dollars, marine scientists and volunteer divers have begun the necessary procedures for restoring the reef to its original condition — a long term process that could take decades, due to the slow growth rates of some coral species. Take a look at this footage taken by a diver on a liveaboard expedition that visited Tubbataha reef in November 2013 to see its current state of affairs.
Image via SurfaceWarriors