Apo and Sumilon Islands, Philippines

Fast Facts

- Science can be used to make informed decisions about marine reserves.
- Involvement of stakeholders is vital for design, management, and enforcement of marine reserves.
- Support from local government is critical for long-term effectiveness of marine reserves. 


A coral hind takes shelter in a reef at the Apo Island Marine Reserve.
Photo by Brian Stockwell

Two nearby reserves, two long-term yet different management histories: a unique opportunity for research

Apo Island and Sumilon Island are 2 marine reserves in the Philippines. The reserve at Apo Island has been protected continuously for 24 years. Sumilon has had a complex history of management due to changes in local governance.
The reserve at Sumilon Island was established in 1974 after biologists and social scientists from Silliman University set up a marine conservation program on a nearby island. Science contributed to the reserve process when scientists and residents discussed basic marine ecological concepts, and the idea of creating a marine reserve evolved. A local government ordinance established the Sumilon Marine Reserve.
Full protection of the Sumilon Marine Reserve has been temporarily suspended 2 times since 1974 for political reasons. Fish abundance decreased sharply when the area was opened to fishing. After full protection was reinstated, the number of fish gradually increased again.
On Apo Island, scientific education programs sparked residents’ interest in protecting and managing marine resources. The local municipality and Silliman University collaborated to establish Apo Marine Reserve in 1982. The reserve has been protected for over 20 years through the joint efforts of the fishing community, local government, and university.
Scientific studies in the Apo and Sumilon Marine Reserves have provided an unparalleled, long-term understanding of biological changes in marine reserves. These results show that reserves can lead to increases in abundance, size, and biomass and that they can benefit the surrounding fisheries. These reserves have provided economic benefits to the local communities by increasing tourism and associated revenues.
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1. Alcala AC, Russ GR (2006) Ambio 35:245-254

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Visit the website of the Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans to learn more about the Science of Marine Reserves.  

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