Take a closer look at Davao Gulf

Davao Gulf

Davao Gulf

The Gulf of Davao is a vast expanse of water (308,000 ha.) that touches all four provinces of Region 11 — Davao del Sur, Davao del Norte, Davao Oriental, Compostela Valley — and Davao City. It is the life source of more than 5 million people, of whom only a few realize the importance of conservation.

It is yet a beautiful place: the white-sand beaches, the islands, some pristine sanctuaries, the numerous dive sites are all still there. On recent dives off the coastlines of Talikud Island in Samal, I’ve been enjoying observing the flurry of aquatic activity in and around the expansive coral reefs surrounding the island. Successive dives don’t diminish the wonder and amazement I feel whenever I look at the innumerable shapes, sizes and colors of coral and all life around it.

Ecological imbalance

Sadly, I also saw signs of destruction, evidences of ecological degradation — although I’m not a marine biologist, I’ve seen enough nature shows on TV to know that the removal of a species from an ecosystem will throw its ecological balance off. For example, it’s plain to see that the crown-of-thorns infestation that devastated a large area of coral reefs some years ago was a direct result of the near extinction of the giant triton. Triton are the natural predators of the crown-of-thorns starfish, and they have been virtually wiped out by the local fishing communities. These voracious and hardy starfish, if left unchecked, could cause the death of more coral colonies in the gulf.

What about the dolphin? When I was a kid, dolphins were a common sight whenever we’d cross the channel to Samal or Talikud. Locally they’re called lumba-lumba (“lumba” is Visayan for the verb “to race”), because they would race with bancas and even with larger boats. I can’t remember anymore the last time I saw a dolphin hereabouts. They’re not extinct, I still hear about the odd sighting or two, but most of them have probably moved off to more fertile waters because there are no longer enough big fish for them to catch in the gulf.

Giant clam

Tridacna gigas, photo by Steve de Neef

A species that is on the verge of extinction is the giant clam. This delicacy is the victim of overfishing by local fishermen. The giant clam is important to the survival of marine life because they provide an important service: filtering of the waters around them.

Thankfully, valiant efforts to revive the giant clam population are being undertaken by conscientious Dabawenyos. Marissa Floirendo of Pearl Farm Beach Resort and Sonny Dizon of Maxima Beach House both have re-seeding programs that will hopefully bear fruit in the not-too-distant future.

It takes a lot of resources, however, to see giant clam thrive again. And, they must be protected from poachers at all cost.


Fishing boat

Fishing boat

See this boat? It’s a fishing boat that’s extremely destructive: they have fishing lines and nets that drag the seabed and destroy precious coral. These boats are supposed to be far out at sea, not in shallow waters, but they are ever present near the islands, unmindful of the ruin and havoc they’re causing the marine environment. And, there are so many of them that Davao Gulf is now practically devoid of the larger species of fish.

The challenge here is to find a way to reach out to subsistence fishermen and their families, and get them to comprehend the folly of overfishing, of using dynamite or cyanide, of destructive and unsustainable fishing practices.


Pollution is also creeping into the marine underworld. Long-time scuba divers have told me that they often see plastic bags, bottles, clothing, and whatnot in some dive sites. It’s very commendable, therefore, that dive shops such as the Carabao Dive Center in Davao City conduct regular coastal clean-up activities (called “Scubasurero”).

Also, more and more beach resorts are becoming aware of the importance of protecting the marine environment, which is, after all, the very source of their profits. Resorts like Leticia by the Sea implement waste segregation and proper disposal methods in an effort to keep the waters around them clean.

I hope that ALL beach resorts, as well as the barangays of the islands, would follow suit. And soon. Otherwise, a few resorts’ efforts won’t really add up to much if the rest of the community continues to pollute the seas.

Lack of Awareness

The problem that underlies all else is lack of awareness among the inhabitants of the Gulf of Davao. Here’s an example. On a boat recently, I overheard a group of divers talking about a certain individual who advocates for coral conservation. Apparently, this individual had admonished local divers to watch out for tourists who were stepping on coral and to report on them. One of the divers retorted, “Are we going to be coral police now?” And another observed sarcastically, “Why, was he (the aforementioned individual) the one who cultivated the coral?”

Save the Philippine Seas!

I could see the absence of concern for marine life in that group of divers. Why were they even scuba diving at all if they didn’t care for the coral, the sea anemone, the pygmy seahorse, the nudibranch, the sea turtle…? I think, perhaps, they haven’t yet come to appreciate the dire consequences of a ruined marine ecosystem.

That’s why I’ve joined this worthy cause to help spread the word about caring for our seas. I hope you will, too! Help save the Philippine seas because they give us life.

What can you do to contribute to the conservation of our marine life?

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12 Responses to “Take a closer look at Davao Gulf”

  1. Choly says:

    Great article Blog. We need more awareness and this is definitely screaming for everybody to get involved. It’s an emergency that we all have to do something about it. All of us Davaweneos. Thanks for the reminder, I cant wait to go back to Talikud and be involved in the preservation of our waters.

  2. Malawata says:

    As much as we love our Davao Gulf, i believe our Davao River also calls for the same. Siltation, as manifested by the brownish water, and the debris thrown along and probably from the settlements located near the riverbanks. I Cagayan de Oro CIty, they have the initiative Ridge to Reef. Hope we can have the something of that sort. The upstream is equally important with the downstream..and of course, the gulf.

  3. Scott says:


    How do you ‘Join@ the SPS – I have looked at their site and can find no way to become a member or contact them direct

    Thanks for any info


    • Blogie says:

      Hello Scott. Right now SPS is just a movement, with people concerned about the marine environment involved in various activities. Pls help us spread our messages to your own friends and online network — you’ll find what we’re advocating on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/savephilippineseas

      To give you an idea, I am involved by creating more awareness of the plight of the marine environment in my area, the Davao Gulf. I blog about it, and I join “offline” activities such as clean-up dives and such.

      Thanks very much for your interest!

      • Scott says:


        Thanks for coming back to me. I ask because I am moving to Davao in the next few months and I have a wealth of practical experience in this field.

        I am keen to do something in my new “home” and believe I have something to contribute.

        I do not want to go into detail here but would welcome some direct contact as some point




  1. Blogie Blog says:

    Advocating for marine life…

    Today is World Oceans Day, and it is also Blog Action Day for the Save the Philippine Seas campaign. As part of the latter, I have taken it upon myself to advocate for the conservation of the marine ecosystem in the Gulf of Davao. It’s not going …

  2. [...] it was also World Oceans Day. As my contribution, I wrote about Davao Gulf yesterday here and over at my personal [...]

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