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Rare sighting of a tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier) cruising the shallows at Tubbataha

The recovery is on at Tubbataha

Added to Stories from the Field on 19 September 2017
Tiger sharks appear to be making a comeback in the Philippines’ Tubbataha reefs area. Six individuals have been identified in recent years after many years of the species not being seen at this diving hotspot located in the northern apex of the Coral Triangle.

These identifications are welcome news for the treasured location, now a Marine Protected Area (MPA) that is recognized as a major source of fish and coral larvae that seed the wider Sulu Sea. Tubbataha was declared a World Heritage Site in 1993.

The WWF has been partnering with the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park management since the late 1990s, providing funds and technical assistance to ensure a permanent presence of onsite park rangers. So far, the signs are encouraging, pointing to increasing shark populations that include grey reef, whitetip reef, silky sharks as well as marble rays.


The recovery is on at Tubbataha
Dr. Andy Cornish, Leader for WWF and TRAFFIC Sharks and Rays Initiative, talks with a Ranger about enforcement issues

As researched by WWF allies LAMAVE (Large Marine Vertebrate Research Institute Philippines), who have been conducting video surveys of sharks and rays at Tubbataha, the LAMAVE team found a variety of 22 species present, although some were too deep for divers.

For species such as tiger sharks, it means word is getting out that the Tubbataha MPA is a protected area – good news for the WWF, which plans to encourage the designation of more such MPAs in the coming years. Locations include the neighbouring Cagayancillo municipalty, where discussions with communities are underway to create areas to protect sharks for tourism.

Dr. Andy Cornish, Leader for WWF and TRAFFIC Sharks and Rays Initiative, said “Tubbataha is one of a handful of sites in Southeast Asia where sharks are actually making a recovery. WWF is expanding our MPA work globally – including commissioning a practical guide on how to best protect sharks – encouraged by the success of Tubbataha and others like it.”




Marbled Ray on the wall at Tubbataha

Marbled Ray on the wall at Tubbataha

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