MAGUINDANAO DEL NORTE- To determine the current status and conditions of the existing MPAs in selected areas of the region to gather baseline data for the ministry and to precisely monitor and assess the status of the coral reefs, seagrass beds, and mangrove areas.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Agrarian Reform, through the Fisheries Resource Management Division, has conducted an assessment of MPAs in the three barangays of Datu Blah Sinsuat, particularly in Barangay Linao, Barangay Nalkan, and Barangay Pura on December 4-15, 2023.

Before the activity, a courtesy meeting was held with the Local Government Units and the Philippine Navy in the area. The MAFAR DBS personnel supported the team during the assessment, while the barangay officials were actively involved and provided their support.

The initial site assessed was the Sitio Tulugon MPA in Barangay Linao. To evaluate the coral, the team used the manta tow technique, gauging the proportions of live hard corals, soft corals, deceased corals, and other marine life or surfaces within the reef. Additionally, a Fish Visual Census (FVC) was carried out to identify species, assess diversity, and estimate the relative abundance of reef fish in that area.

To assess the coral species composition and the percentage cover of various components, such as the hard corals, dead corals, algae, associated fauna, abiotic, etc., of the reef habitat, the C5 photo transect technique was employed by the team.

While conducting the coral assessment, the team simultaneously evaluated the seagrass. This assessment aimed to identify seagrass species, measure their abundance and distribution and study the diverse plant and animal life connected to the seagrass habitat.

After completing the assessment in Barangay Linao, the team proceeded to Nalkan and Pura, where the next two MPAs are located.

The personnel and staff from the Fisheries Resources Management Division and the Fishery Regulatory and Law Enforcement Division completed the assessment.

In addition, the gathered data will be processed and analyzed by the trained staff using different methods for each habitat to get the results, which the ministry will use as the baseline for future project interventions for the sustainable management of the MPAs.