Reef monitoring devices deployed in Cebu, Cavite, Palawan

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The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) deployed on Friday, May 30, state-of-the-art monitoring equipment to determine the overall health and changing status of coral reefs on three pilot sites in the country.

A diver installing an ARMS unit. Photo credit:
A diver installing an ARMS unit. Photo credit:

Scuba divers from the DENR?s Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) simultaneously installed one unit each of the autonomous reef monitoring system (ARMS) on underwater sites off Carabao Island in Cavite, Mactan Island in Cebu, and Snake Island in Palawan to culminate the celebration of May as the Month of the Ocean.

BMB director Theresa Mundita Lim said that the ARMS is a device made up mostly polyvinyl chloride (PVC) material secured to coral reefs with metal weights that can mimic coral reefs and, over time, attracts or collects small reef animals referred to as cryptic reef biodiversity.

?A group of ARMS installed in a specific area could provide a systematic and consistent method of monitoring marine life forms. They also provide data on how climate change impacts such as ocean warming and acidification affects them, or how marine ecosystems develop and maintain their resilience to these impacts,? Lim explained.

However, the BMB chief clarified that the ARMS will be used initially for educational purposes only. The units will be left underwater and retrieved a year later, after which all organisms found on or within the unit will then be extracted and analyzed by biologists.

?These will be presented to the community to give them an idea about the marine life in their vicinity which will, hopefully, encourage them to help in the conservation and protection of our marine ecosystems,? she said.

After retrieval, the ARMS will be redeployed for further studies. The BMB is also planning to increase the number of ARMS units in specific sites to provide additional data for research purposes.

The simultaneous deployment of ARMS began with a brief program on land, with the BMB explaining to the local community the purpose and objective of the ARMS installation and on conservation of marine ecosystems. Members of the Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management Council (FARMC), the local Bantay-Dagat, and students took part in the program.

BMB divers were assisted by representatives of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the respective local government units, as well as the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development and Philippine Coast Guard in Palawan.

More than 800 ARMS have been deployed to date by NOAA divers throughout the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic Oceans. ? PIA

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