A Tale of Two Ships
Just eight days after the American warship was extracted, another vessel followed suit. On 8 April 2013, Tubbataha Park Rangers discovered the F/V Min Long Yu, a 48-meter long Chinese poaching vessel, floundering a nautical mile east of the Ranger Station, part of Tubbataha North Atoll. Though smaller than the wood-and-fibreglass hulled USS Guardian, the Chinese vessel was steel-hulled. This plus the fact that the craft kept bucking up, down and sideways, proved deadly to the reef. By the time the ship was towed out 11 days later, a vast reef area had been obliterated, with some massive 500-year old Porites corals sheared cleanly in half.
Though the reef damage was shocking, worse was to come. Adding insult to injury, 2870 endangered pangolin carcasses were found aboard the Chinese vessel’s holds. Though internationally protected, poachers still hunt the harmless mammals for their meat and scales to fuel the traditional East Asian medicine trade. Advocates the world over are up in arms to claim compensation for the groundings and to find ways to expedite reef recovery.
Concludes WWF-Philippines Vice-chair and CEO Jose Ma. Lorenzo Tan, “Given enough time, all scars heal. Left alone, large biodiversity systems like Tubbataha have shown incredible resilience. Through the years, she has weathered storms, dynamite blasts, coral bleaching and recurring Crown-of-Thorns Seastar (COTS) outbreaks. With continued protection – and a little luck – she may yet bounce back.”