Surgeonfish may be just what the doctor ordered for Tubbataha Reef, after it was damaged by two grounding incidents involving foreign vessels this year.Named after the scalpel-like extensions on their tails, the surgeonfish may help the reef recover in 30 to 40 years, the World Wide Fund for Nature Philippines said.
"The key to it all might be surgeonfish. Their constant grazing keeps algae from taking over the freshly-exposed rock. It is because of them that coral larvae will be allowed to resettle on the grounding scars," WWF Philippines quoted coral scientist Dr. Al Licuanan as saying.
"With enough luck, the scars should heal in 30 or 40 years," Licuanan added.
Earlier this year, Tubbataha sustained damage from the grounding of the minesweeper USS Guardian last Jan. 17, and a Chinese fishing vessel last April 8.
Tubbataha is a 97,030-hectare natural marine park that is also a multi-awarded UNESCO World Heritage site that will mark its 25th anniversary this year.
WWF Philippines' Gregg Yan said the surgeonfish, locally known as Labahita, eat only algae and are hosted by the grounding sites.
WWF Tubbataha Project Manager Marivel Dygico noted Tubbataha is a "fish-lover's wet dream," with more than 600 types of fish "ranging from the fingernail-sized pygmy seahorse to the occasional truck-sized whale shark" being seen there.
"The area also hosts 360 species of coral, 14 species of shark, 12 species of whale and dolphin, endangered green sea and hawksbill turtles plus over a hundred seabird species," said Dygico. — TJD, GMA News