Diving for Diversity 30x30 logo

The 30x30 initiative

One of the wonders and delights of the natural world is the extreme diversity of life. This is particularly true for tropical reefs that abound with life in all colors, shapes and sizes. But like on land, marine biodiversity is under increasing pressure and action is needed to preserve what we have. Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are one of the tools to achieve this and the 2022 UN COP15 conference on biodiversity calls for 30% of land and marine surface to be set aside as protected areas by 2030. However, to make this 30x30 initiative happen we need all the help we can get.

What can divers do?

As divers we actually see the underwater world, both its beauty and the challenges due to local and global pressures on the environment. A greater awareness of, and love for, aquatic live is stimulating many divers to become more eco-conscious. Fortunately, there are several simple things you can do to make a difference.

  1. select destinations known to be good stewards of their coastal areas
  2. be ecosensitive, both above and below the water
  3. contribute to knowledge of marine biodiversity and habitats

Dauin's Marine Protected Areas

Dive sites near Bongo Bongo Divers in Dauin Negros Oriental (Philippines) has been a pioneer in establishing MPAs. Under leadership of Dr. Angel Alcala - the father of MPAs - the first MPA was created at Sumilon Island in 1974. Its success in boosting fisheries yield in surrounding areas due to the 'spillover effect' led to the creation of more MPAs, including Apo Island. In addition to boosting its commercial fisheries, the protection has made Apo Island a top diving attraction in the Philippines.

The municipality of Dauin, which includes Apo Island, has built on this success by creating a series of MPAs along its shores. Rather than just protecting reefs, these MPAs also cover areas of seagrass and sand/rubble slopes that have become the prime muck diving areas that Dauin is famous for. The resulting boost in tourism has supplemented the fisheries benefit of the MPAs and MPA fees have been instrumental in funding management and enforcement of no-take regulations. As a result, divers actively contribute to sustainable MPA operation just by doing what we love doing - Go Dive!

Diving for data

In addition to funding, MPA site selection and management requires information on the biodiversity and habitat types in the area. Most research has targeted fisheries, but fishes of commercial interest are just a small fraction of the full spectrum of biodiversity. Divers particulary enjoy these other, often smaller, fishes such as the many colorful reef fishes or cryptic critters that you find hidden in the cracks and crevices of reefs or on muck dives.
Any diver who has been to Dauin has firsthand knowledge of its incredible biodiversity. This is no surprise because Dauin is located in the global center of marine coastal fish diversity. However, unlike some other areas in the Philippines, the biodiversity in the area of Dauin and the wider area of the Visayas has not been thoroughly recorded.

This website is our contribution towards filling the biodiversity knowledge gap, using Dauin as our area of focus. In the first phase we have surveyed fish biodiversity along the coastline and on Apo Island. Just click to see the Illustrated Checklist showing images for 800 different fish species with more to come. Among them are two species that are new to science, several are "range extension" observations where we are the first to report them outside their known geographic range. In addition, we have added about two dozen species to the list of Philippine fishes that is maintained by FishBase. Once all the data is entered into FishBase, Dauin will have the highest reported fish biodiversity in the Philippines!

What is next?

Mobilize divers: Sure, 800+ species is a crazy large number but at the end of our survey we were still adding on average one species per day. So there are many more to be recorded. We are looking at ways to stimulate divers to contribute images so we can complete the inventory of coastal fish biodiversity for this region.

Fill the ecology gap: The most exciting and innovative part of our project is to document the variety of habitats along our shores and map where each fish species lives during its various life stages. There is surprisingly little information about habit use of reef fishes. To conserve habitats, shouldn't you know what is out there and what roles they play in the bigger ecosystem?

Build a web portal: Collecting, recording and sharing ecology information is a major but necessary challenge. We can, and will, share our species@location sightings with online organizations like REEF and iNaturalist, but there is no good way to deal with ecological information. This will be an important focus for AquaNotes, a new website that grew from the lessons learned in Dauin.

Underwater Photography with a Purpose

If you are an underwater photographer with an interest in reef ecology then get in touch. With enough interest, we can look at creating workshops about fish biodiversity, behavior, habitats, and the use of photography as a documentation tool. Or there may be ways to collaborate on projects or just chat about fishes!

Who we are

View from the beach in Dauin
Bart Hazes

This project started as a labor of love by Bart Hazes who has been an active marine naturalist and scuba diver for over two decades. But the project only took off after partnering with Bongo Bongo Divers (BBD) who have been working with the local community and others to support Dauin's MPAs. Having retired early from his university faculty position, and having obtained his divemaster certification at BBD, Bart has led the biodiversity data collection as BBD's science officer with help of BBD dive guides who, between them, have decades of local dive experience.


  • We could not have done it alone and are greatful for the help and enthusiasm from many fish taxonomists who have generously shared their knowledge and excitement whenever unusual or difficult to identify species were encountered. In particular, Drs. Gerry Allen, Dave Greenfield, Jeff Johnson, Rudie Kuiter, Helen Larson, Barry Russell, and Rick Winterbottom.
  • The staff at FishBase have become friends and facilitators who help to make sure our observations find widespread use.
  • I would like to thank all the guides and staff at BBD, as well as the many divers I had the pleasure to dive with. In particular Hanh Lý, my longtime dive buddy, and OneBall my partner in crime during divemaster training.


We gratefully acknowledge the PADI Aware Foundation for funding our project.

PADI Aware Foundation logo

Created by: Bart Hazes
Last update: 2024-06-14