Taking to heart the notion that pictures paint a thousand words, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has found a perfect way to educate the public about the preserving the beauty of the Earth’s Coral Triangle – through photographs.
The triangular region known as the coral triangle contains one-fourth of the world’s island and covers the seas of six countries: the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, and Timor-Leste. The Coral Triangle is the global centre of marine diversity and it is for this reason that it is also called the Amazon of the Seas.
A journey of discovery
Renowned nature photographer Yogi Freund and his wife Stella of the Freund Factory Expedition will embark on an eye-opening journey to the Coral Triangle with the WWF. The expedition is called the WWF and Freund Expedition which aims to document WWF’s fieldwork.
The expedition will tell the story of the beauty underneath the Coral Triangle and the factors affecting it by capturing amazing images.
“We are faced with an exciting adventure as we are tasked to document beautiful locations and memorable places. Each day we see new things and incredible situations, we have the duty to tell a story through our images which is considerably easy since the places are already beautiful,” expressed Stella Freund of the WWF/Freund Photo Expedition.
The WWF/Freund Expedition is an 18-month photojournalistic expedition that also investigates the connectivity between the wildlife, the people of the region, and more importantly, the threats they are facing.
The marine life that can be found in the Coral Triangle consists of 600 of the 800 known corals. The region is also home to 2700 types of fish, six of the seven marine turtles as well as an impressive array of flora and fauna.
The apex of the Coral Triangle
The Philippines is situated at the heart of the Coral Triangle that is home to 27,000 square kilometers of coral reef. Our country prides itself as the second largest archipelago in the world with its 36,289 kilometers of coast. The Philippines is the center of marine biodiversity with over 500 species of reef-building corals.
But behind the breathtaking natural beauty of the Philippines lies the sad reality that not everyone can see or even realize - that we are a dangerous threat to the wonderful world that surrounds us. Changing this reality is among the key priorities of the Freund Factory Expedition and the World Wildlife Fund.
“Taking photos is the easy part, but it’s keeping your eyes open that was really hard. There are times when I was really stunned by the locals’ practices and how they treat the marine animals. Sometimes I need to re-compose myself and remember my task of documenting what’s happening to provide more information to the public,” said Freund.
The Philippines and Indonesia are two of the countries that have the world’s most threatened coral reefs. Less than 30 percent of the coral reefs in the country are currently in good condition. Harmful practices such as chemical pollution, acidification and destructive fishing continue to plague the coral reefs in the country.
Freund elaborated, “Presenting photos that tell a story of how we are negatively affecting our environment is the main goal of our expedition. It’s going behind the scenes and getting it on image. We hope to capture an image that will strongly appeal to the emotions of those who will be able to see it. Through which we hope that they will have the initiative to do something about the situation.”
Verde Island passage is one of the most significant links to the global ecosystem of the coral system. It is located between Batangas in Luzon and Oriental Mindoro and is described as the ‘center of the center of marine biodiversity’.
Hamilo Coast, a residential leisure destination in Batangas and nestled within the Coral Triangle is one of the few private sectors participating in the initiative to conserve nature. Hamilo has been working closely with the WWF-Philippines.
The said residential leisure destination is the first community development in the Philippines planned for ecological sustainability. Among the milestones of Hamilo Coast in cooperation with the WWF and local government is the declaration of their coves as Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).
“We conducted an initial baseline study two years ago to check the health of reefs and the quality of marine life in the area and found out that these sites have the most potential for being declared as MPAs because of the biological attributes,” said Joel Palma, WWF-Philippines Vice President for conservation programs.
“However, the survey also revealed that the area has been subjected to various environmental stresses caused by illegal means of fishing, resulting in the deterioration of conditions of the coral, reef fish, and seagrass or macrolagal communities,” explained Palma.
The powerful images from the WWF/ Freund Expedition are set to improve the situation in the country. The emotional story behind every photo that is both artistic and educational is one way of getting through Filipinos.
Yogi Freund, lead photographer of the expedition said: “We hope that people can learn from our journey. Appreciating our photos is not enough; it’s about understanding the message and doing something to prevent the worsening conditions in the coastlines and what’s underneath the ocean. It’s part of our responsibility to take care of our habitat.”