Marine life

The Philippine archipelago is located in the coral Triangle. A triangular shaped area locked between Papua New Guinea and the Sula and Celebes seas,  with the world’s highest Marine species diversity.

Coral Triangle

More then 500 species of coral and over 2500 fish species have been identified in these tropical waters. Coral reefs are the result of build up of calcium carbonate secreted by clusters of polyps. The reefs we see today are a result of this process that started over 20.000 years ago and is one of the most productive and diverse eco systems on earth.  Photosynthesis of algae by dinoflagellates living in the polyps forms the food source for tropical reefs.  As a result  reefs only occur in relatively shallow and clear water where enough light can penetrate.

Whale sharks, the largest fish on earth, migrate through the Bohol Sea between April and May. Not only the largest but also one of the world’s smallest fresh water fish, the Dwarf Pygmy Goby fish (Pandaka pygmaea), is found in the Archipelago. Several species of Dolphins live in the Philippine archipelago. The spinner dolphin is the most common one sighted, particularly in the Sulu Sea and off the coast of Bohol.

Sharks are an increasingly rare sight in most parts of The Philippines due to overfishing. The best change of spotting sharks is in the seas around Malapascua and in The Tubbataha national park. Thresher sharks are commonly encountered on dives around Malapascua, as well as an occasional hammerhead (between February and May) and tiger shark. Other sharks you might encounter are black and whitetip sharks and smaller bamboo sharks. Closely related to sharks is the gracious family of rays. Manta rays, the largest of the species of rays can be encountered in the area around Donsol, various kinds of sting rays and eagle rays are sighted throughout the archipelago. Further five from the eight species of marine turtles inhabit The Philippines: hawkbill, green turtle, loggerhead, leatherback and olive ridley. 

Global warming, overfishing and pollutions are threatening the ecologically diverse coastal resources, although the establishment of Marine sanctuaries seems to have improved the health of coral reefs and increased the fish population in recent years

Hazardous marine life

The changes of being attacked by marine animals are very slim. Most bites are a result of feeding behavior, instead of defensive behavior. Below are a number of marine animals common in the seas surrounding The Philippines that have the armory to inflict potential serious injuries.

Scorpion fish (Scorpaenidae)

Scorpion fish

This beautiful fish has venomous spines that can be fairly painful when pricked and cause local swelling and inflammation. The size of the fish ranges from 6 to 45 centime, whit an average of 38 cm.

Treatment:

  •  Remove the spines with a forceps or tweezers
  •  Wash the affected area with the hot water (45 – 49) for 30 to 90 minutes and seek emergency medical care.

Stone fish (Synanceia)

stone fish

The well camouflaged stonefish resembles rocks or branches of coral, which makes them prone to accidentally stepping on or touching them. It inhabits shallow waters and coral reef and can grow up to 35 cm. Stings from a stonefish are extremely painful and require immediate medical attention. There have been a number of fatalities reported in the Philippines.

Treatment

  • Remove the spines with a forceps or tweezers
  • Wash the affected area with hot water (45 °C – 49 °C) for 30 to 90 minutes and seek immediate emergency medical care.
  • Antivenin might be required, depending on the medical condition of the diver 

Sea urchins (Phylum Echinodermata)

Sea urchins are found throughout the tropical waters of south East Asia and live in fairly shallow water. They have a small round body of up to a maximum width of 10cm that is covered with poisonous spines. The pricks of sea urchins are rarely deadly, but will inflict pain.

Treatment: 

  • Remove the spines with a forceps or tweezers  
  • Wash the affected area with the hot water (45 °C – 49°C ) for 30 to 90 minutes and seek emergency medical care.

Jellyfish (Phylum Cnidaria)

JellyfishJellyfish come in many different sizes and shapes and inhabit all of the world’s oceans. The tentacles of a jelly fish can inject venom into a person’s skin when touched. Box jellyfish are producing on of the most powerful venoms and immediate medical help will be necessary. Other kinds of Jellyfish have less potent venom and can be treated by self medication.

Treatment for box jellyfish stings

  • Alert medical services
  • Remove the tentacles with forceps or tweezers
  • Apply vinegar liberally to the affected area. Do not use hot water, as this will worsen the condition 
  • Apply pressure to the injury (with a bandage) to reduce the spread of venom.
  • Monitor the patient’s life signs.

Treatment for jellyfish

  •  Remove the tentacles with forceps or tweezers
  • Apply vinegar liberally to the affected area. Do not use hot water, as this will worsen the condition.

Cone Snails (Conus)

Cone snails inhabit most of the coastal zone and coral reefs of The Philippines. Fortunately many of the smaller species are harmless for humans. However the larger species shoot venomous harpoons that are very painful and potential fatal to humans .

Treatment:

  • Alert medical services
  • Remove the harpoon with forceps or tweezers
  • Wash the affected area with the hot water (between 45°C  and 49 °C) for 30 to 90 minutes and seek emergency medical care  
  • Apply pressure to the injury (with a bandage) to reduce the spread of venom. 
  • Monitor the patient’s vital signs

Sea krait (Laticauda)

SeakraitSea kraits belong to the family of Sea snakes and can deliver serious and venomous bites with their fangs, resulting in severe pain and possible paralysis of the effected area. Fortunately they are not aggressive towards human, so chances of getting bitten are slim. Sea kraits can reach a body length of 150 cm and are mostly found in shallow coastal waters. Antivenin is available for effective treatment of bites and should be administered as soon as possible.

Treatment

  • Alert medical services
  • Apply pressure to the injury (with a bandage) to reduce the spread of venom.
  • Monitor the patient’s vital signs

Demon stinger (Inimicus didactylus)

The Demon Stinger or Devil Stinger is another venomous marine animal closely related to stone fishes. It can grow up to 25 cm in length and is covered with venomous spines. These fishes come out at night and partially bury themselves during the day in the seabed, making them hard to spot. Stings are extremely painful and can cause local nerve and tissue damage.

Treatment 

  • Alert medical services
  • Remove the harpoon with forceps or tweezers
  • Wash the affected area with the hot water (between 45 °C  – 49 °C) for 30 to 90 minutes
  • Apply pressure to the injury (with a bandage) to reduce the spread of venom.
  • Monitor the patient’s life signs.
Activities: