The Tubbataha Reef sprawls across 100,000 hectares and supports over 350 species of coral and almost 500 species of fish. Earlier this year, two vessels grounded in Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park – a jewel in the middle of Philippines' Sulu Sea. First a U.S. Navy ship grounded on the reef in January. A couple of months later, a Chinese fishing vessel grounded, adding more damage to this fantastic reef.
The May 2013 working meeting, organized by the World Heritage Centre's Marine Programme in cooperation with the park, focused on strengthening the conservation capacity of the site from such dangers. The group of invited international experts consisted of Prof David Johnson (Southampton, UK), Mr. Fergus Molloy (Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Australia), Mr. Chris Briggs (Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Australia), Professor Alan White (Hawaii, USA) and Mr. Harald Marencic (Wadden Sea, the Netherlands).
Following the recommendation of the World Heritage Committee, Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park should gain a PSSA (Particularly Sensitive Sea Area) status. These areas are protected from ship navigation threats under the regulation of the International Maritime Organization. Several World Heritage marine sites are already recognized as a PSSA, including the Great Barrier Reef (since 1990), Malpelo Fauna and Flora Sanctuary (2002), the Wadden Sea (2002), the Galápagos Islands (2005) and Papahānaumokuākea (2007). Over the next year, these partners will be working together in view of gaining a PSSA status for Tubbataha.