MANILA, Philippines – A “panda” has been traveling the seas of Palawan since 2008, providing a wide range of services for the environmental group World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).
Painted black and white like a panda, the M/Y Navorca is an 18-meter long vessel that serves as the prime research vessel of WWF Philippines, taking on conservation tasks in the Sulu Sea, particularly in the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park.
Its seven-man crew is aptly called the “Oceans Seven”.
Since it was acquired in 2008, the ship has been modified through a partnership with Grieg Star, Grieg Foundation and WWF Norway.
“These upgrades are vital in ramping up our research and enforcement efforts for the Sulu Sea,” said WWF Philippines Tubbataha Reefs Project Manager Marivel Dygico.
“At the center of the Sulu Sea lie the Tubbataha Reefs, where fish biomass reaches 200 tons per square kilometer. This is five times greater than the productivity of a healthy reef and seeds the Sulu Sea with fish and invertebrate spawn. It is imperative to protect and conserve Tubbataha through regular research and patrol efforts,” Dygico added.
From March to September this year, the M/Y Navorca has been in several trips involving research for seabirds, coral and fish. It also had a month-long expedition to the proposed Tun Mustapha Marine Protected Area in Malaysia, which included scientists, staff and volunteers.
The so-called “seaborne panda” is set for similar trips next year as it undertakes surveys of different animals, installs mooring buoys and immerse WWF’s allies and supporters.