The 1.14 million hectares occupied by the Verde Island Passage Corridor is known the world over for its rich biodiversity. The Verde Island Passage is a strait separating the islands of Luzon and Mindoro in the Philippines. It connects the South China Sea with the Tayabas Bay and the Sibuyan Sea.
In 2005, the Carpenter and Springer study dubbed the Verde Island Passage as “the world’s center of the center of marine shorefish biodiversity.” The study noted that the strait hosts the greatest number of shorefish species, and that many globally threatened species can be found in the area. Among these species are the sea turtles such as the hawksbills, olive ridleys, and green turtles. Other endangered species that are present in the Verde Island Passage are the giant groupers, humphead wrasses and giant clams.
In early April this year, a group of scientists from the United States led by Rich Mooi, curator of invertebrate zoology and geology at the California Academy of Sciences, surveyed Verde Island Passage. In an article published in the New York Times, Mooi said:
We are nearing the end of what has turned out to be a discovery-filled expedition that has made the Verde Island Passage live up to its reputation as one of the most diverse marine environments on Earth. In every dive, we see how past geologic change, fluctuations in sea levels and the intersection of several biological regions have caused numbers of species to skyrocket. Incredibly, we have seen and documented nearly 800 species of sea slugs, hundreds of coral species and more worm species than you can shake a stick at, not to mention the other snails, clams, crustaceans and bizarre barnacles that live hidden in the tissues of corals and sponges.
This is the most amazing place I have ever been in my 30 years of research. We are situated in Mabini, southern Luzon, at the edge of the Verde Island Passage, studying the marine biodiversity of this center of the center of species richness in the Indo-Pacific region. Each day starts with a series of dives, and ends in night dives that further reveal nocturnal denizens of the passage.
Verde Island Passage is also famous for its spectacular diving grounds and is known as one of the best diving grounds in the world.