TUBBATAHA Philippines UNESCO Marine World Heritage at Oceanographic Museum of Monaco

Protecting our oceans safeguarding our ecosystem

Patricia Zobel de Ayala, better known as Patsy to her friends, is the very active Honorary Consul of The Philippines in Monaco, and a passionate of diving and water sports in general, who firmly believes in the need to protect our oceans. On June 27, 2017, Patsy, in partnership with the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco unveiled the exhibition Tubbataha, the Philippines’ UNESCO Marine World Heritage Site, in the presence of HSH Prince Albert II, who champions ocean conservation and the safeguarding of our ecosystem.

This first-ever Philippine event in Monaco was made possible thanks the invaluable contributions of Robert Calcagno, Florent Favier and the staff of the Oceanographic Museum, David Doubilet, Jennifer Hayes, Tet Lara and Marissa Floirendo, and Angelique Songco of the Tubbataha Reefs. Also present at the event were Christina Rola from the Philippine Embassy in Paris, and other diplomats from various countries, conservationists, and philanthropists like Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, who made a donation to the Tubbataha Reefs.

Coral, heart of the ocean

The privileged guests had the chance to watch a chronicle of the exploration expedition of HSH Prince Albert II to Tubbataha and Cagayancillo, in April 2016, in the documentary Coral,heart of the Ocean, where he dived in the natural coral reefs of Tubbataha.

The objectives were twofold: to place Argos tracking tags on two marine turtles, as part of the protection program for these animals, threatened by accidental fishing, initiated by the Oceanographic Institute; and highlight the importance of the marine protected areas, seen as a rebirth site for the oceans to regenerate.

In the heart of the Sulu Sea lays the only purely Marine World Heritage Site in Southeast Asia today, the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park.  It is located in the Philippines, which is part of the Coral Triangle, center of global marine biological diversity in the world.  This 970 square kilometer natural park is the largest marine protected area in the Philippines, comprising over 50% of all no-take zones in the country.

Tubbataha was inscribed in the World Heritage list in December 1993 because of its exceptional natural beauty, its role in on-going ecological and biological processes, and its significance to in situ conservation.  Studies have shown that fish and coral larvae from Tubbataha enrich fisheries in the surrounding areas.  This ecological function is vital to the food security of the Philippines.

Almost 200 species of endangered marine life find their home in Tubbataha.  The Park is a haven to 72% of all coral genera found worldwide.  It is one of very few strongholds of seabirds, marine turtles, and sharks in the region.  To pass on its outstanding universal value to future generations is shared our obligation to the world. Robert Calcagno said: “It is the first reserve created 30 years ago and later reinforced by the Philippines Government. Today the reefs are considered as the richest in the world in terms of flora and fauna.”

Tubbataha, a national treasure

Also a main feature at the exhibit is a video documentary produced by the Philippines’ top underwater videographer and cinematographer, Marissa Floirendo, similarly entitled, Tubbataha, A National Treasure. The video has the distinction of being one of the Choice Selection at the 2017 Wildlife Conservation Film Festival in New York City.

Since it was discovered by divers in the late 1970s Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park (TRNP) has been considered one of the most extraordinary dive sites in the world, a dream trip for most scuba divers. Recently, it was ranked eighth best dive site in the world by the CNN travel website.

Exhibit will travel from Monaco to The Philippines

The exposition that will be open to the public until August 31, 2017, features large scale stunning underwater and topside photographs of world renowned National Geographic photographers and Rolex partners, David Doubilet and Jennifer Hayes, and award winning photographer and featured artist of the book Tubbataha, A National Treasure, Maria Teresa “Tet” Lara.   Some of the photos in the exhibit include close up of a Red Spotted Blenny, half-and-half of Brown Bobbies, seascapes, and schooling fish. The public will be able to watch the documentary Corail, Coeur de l’Ocean (Coral, Heart of the Ocean) via virtual reality helmets.

The exhibit is expected to make its debut in the Philippines in late 2017 through the Ayala Foundation and the Ayala Malls. Requests to showcase the photographs in London and France have been received. Finally, the prints will be auctioned by the Tubbataha Management Office in 2018 to raise funds for the protection of the Park.

The photographers

David Doubilet and Jennifer Hayes are a photographic team for National Geographic Magazine focusing on ocean environments. Their photography is a universal language to create a visual voice for a fragile and finite world. They believe images have the power to inform, illuminate celebrate, honour and most importantly, create change.

David Doubilet began photographing a dark green Atlantic when he first put his Brownie Hawkeye camera in a rubber anesthesiologist’s bag at the age of twelve, receiving his first National Geographic assignment while at Boston University.  Jennifer’s passion for the study and conservation of primitive fishes led to graduate degrees in zoology, marine ecology, later evolving into photography and storytelling to document her findings.

Assignments have taken this team into the vast Coral Triangle from Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, beneath into Africa’s Okavango Delta, under oil and gas rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, into the world of ice in Antarctica, Arctic and most recently Eastern Greenland where glaciers are retreating at a rapid pace. Their most recent collaboration has taken them throughout the Philippines, an ocean nation and cornerstone of the coral triangle.

Marissa Floirendo is one of the Philippines’ premiere cinematographers, having won several awards from the local film industry. She was also one of the country’s pioneering underwater filmmakers, among the first to document its rich marine life.
 She is a director of the Antonio O. Floirendo Foundation, and spearheaded the publication of the very first coffee table book on the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park, “Tubbataha: A National Treasure,” released in December 2016.
 Marissa has been diving in the Tubbataha reefs for almost three decades, and has been a witness to its struggles, its survival, and its rebirth.
 With the foundation, Marissa produced the video on Tubbataha, using her collected footage and images, to promote the conservation of this extraordinary natural wonder and pride of the Philippines.

Tet Lara is a photographer, businesswoman, and a staunch advocate for the preservation of the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park, Philippines’ premiere marine ecosystem. She has compiled over 10 years’ worth of photographs appearing in the book “Tubbataha: A National Treasure.”  Tet has won awards in local and international underwater competitions, such as Best of Show at the Australasia Underwater Festival 2011. She is currently a volunteer speaker who uses her work to create awareness for the continued preservation of Tubbataha.

Monaco Explorations – The legacy goes on

The interesting Tubbataha exhibition is the perfect prelude to the Monaco Explorations, a scientific program that will be launched on July 27, 2017, with the departure of the transoceanic scientific vessel Yersin, for a 3-years long navigation over the oceans of the world with dozens of researchers on board.

An important expedition to be revived by HSH Prince Albert II, following the tradition of the marine explorations lead by Prince Alber 1st, founder of the Oceanographic Museum, and continued by Commanding Office Cousteau who was its director during three decades.

Today’s Quote

“No water, no life. No blue, no green.” Sylvia Earle, Oceanographer


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