The study “Biodiversity Profiling and Carrying Capacity Determination of Priority Ecotourism Areas in Visayas Region”, conducted an underwater assessment of Gigantes Island, Carles, Iloilo on April 20-29, 2016. The assessment aims to establish baseline information of the marine ecosystem or underwater resources of the designated areas after the occurrence of typhoon “Yolanda” and detect changes in its condition.

Dr. Alicia L. Lustica, BCWERC Center Head and Project Leader of the abovementioned project, directed the BCWERC Region 7 licensed divers namely, Ms. Hanna Lou Castillo, For. Celeste Rallos, For. Gerry Saludo III, and Mr. Jon Alfonso Horvidalla to conduct the assessment. With the technical supervision of Mr. Excalibur Seterra also a licensed diver and at the same time an aquaculturist of the Iloilo Provincial Agriculture Office spearheaded the assessment together with the assistance of Ms. Lovejoy Tejido of BCWERC 6, Mr. Larry Joie Alag of Philippine Life Saving and Mr. Julieto Manggasang, Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction Management Officer of Carles.

A transect line of 50 by 50 m method were used for the identification of reef fishes, corals, sea grass and other existing marine organism and their percent cover. Three (3) island barangays (Gabi, Asluman and Granada) consisted of six (6) sites (Danao-danao, Antonia, Cabugao gamay Islet, Bantigue Islet, Uay dahon Islet and Granada Bay) were subjected for the reef fishes and coral assessment while only three (3) sites (Danao-danao, Sitio. Barosbos and Granada Bay) were determined for the sea grass as it were the only sites that exhibited its presence. Most of the corals observed were extremely damaged and only 21% is considered as live hard corals. Similarly, coral reef fishes were recorded with 60 different species under 23 families (dominated by wrasse and damsel fishes) due to the degraded coral reef health and rampant illegal fishing activities in the area. Four (4) different types of sea grass were found thriving dominated by Thalassia and Halodule.

The study revealed that corals were not properly managed by the communities as their focus is only limited to surface tourism (island hopping) and not in the underwater resources of its islets. Different activities that disturbed its marine ecosystems are prevalent in the island such as rampant illegal or dynamite fishing, unregulated massive scallop collection, the use of chemicals in hunting fishes that live in the corals, using of metal anchor that hooks into the seabed where the corals are found, and other human induced-disturbances that the community puts into practice. Gigantes Island has the potential to be a top tourist destination but it is also experiencing a loss of ecological balance due to anthropogenic causes. These results will be an eye opener for the island dwellers, other stakeholders and concerned agencies to conserve, preserve and manage the remaining marine ecosystems of the Gigantes Group of Islands where many lives are at stake when these resources will be depleted. BCWERC Region 6