Historically, remote islands and marine resources have been free for those willing to venture into their areas. Until recent years, many such islands have been effectively managed by their remote locations and any native humans. But nowadays, under-use is turning into destructive over-fishing and plundering, because there is no surveillance. Many marine parks in South-east Asia are facing the same problems as Tubbataha (White, 1989; Arquiza, 1990). Sustainable management in these areas is a challenge, especially where there are no local authorities or communities to take immediate control.
Field surveys at Tubbataha Reef in 1984 and 1989 have revealed a dramatic decline in the coral-reef quality from the incidence of dynamite fishing, the use of sodium cyanide for the aquarium and live-food fish trades, and the dropping of large anchors. Sea-turtles and seabirds are also endangered.
Solutions in areas such as Tubbataha will require organization beyond the grasp of local residents in the islands, who have traditionally had little formal government. Although they are aware of the problem, they are faced with outsiders and intruders who do not respect their conservatism. National government and/or nongovernment organizations can play a role in management, while being careful not to alienate the positive force and management control of the local communities (White, 1988a). Such issues require sensitive planning and community-based approaches that are directed at education, organization, and the involvement and building of local responsibility.
The management plan for Tubbataha Reef National Marine Park should have three thrusts and concomitant strategies: (1) to curtail immediate resource-destruction through the deployment of a team of educators, community organizers, and law-enforcement officers; (2) to articulate and implement a Park zonation plan which includes traditional fishing areas, sanctuaries, and buoys for anchoring; and (3) to implement a community development programme which will systematically integrate the adjacent fishing community into the Park management efforts and give the fishermen due responsibility in this process.