Expedition: Danajon Bank (National Geographic)

Over the next few weeks, our Expedition: Danajon Bank team will be blogging about photography and marine conservation over at National Geographic Newswatch. Here's our first post:

"Long term and meaningful conservation success really is only possible if NGOs and photographers work together – very often also working with scientists. If you can get those three sectors working together, you’re pretty much a non-stoppable force.”

 - Thomas Peschak, Conservation Photographer and iLCP Fellow

The International League of Conservation Photographers has pulled together an unstoppable force to launch a conservation campaign on behalf of a rare and threatened double-barrier coral reef called Danajon Bank. Four iLCP photographers, including Thomas Peschak, will travel to the Philippines in April to visually document this 90-mile reef system. More than a year in the making, our two-week photo expedition is a collaboration between NGOs, photographers and scientists, all of whom are interested in conserving this unique marine ecosystem – one of only six double-barrier reefs in the world.

iLCP is teaming up with Project Seahorse to reveal for the first time the full beauty of Danajon Bank and the imminent threats it faces. Pictures will be taken by Peschak and another three of the world’s finest marine photographers: Luciano Candisani, Claudio Contreras, and Michael Ready. This international team hails from South Africa, Brazil, Mexico and the United States (respectively). Joining our photographers will be pre-eminent marine biologists Dr. Amanda Vincent and Dr. Heather Koldewey of Project Seahorse and the Zoological Society of London.

Making this project even more powerful is our newest partner Net-Works, which is establishing a community-based supply chain for discarded fishing nets that will improve the livelihood of local fishers while providing an innovative source of recycled materials for sustainably manufactured carpet tiles. For iLCP, there is a great synergy in this project, as Net-Works’ triple bottom line approach to conservation (securing environmental, economic and social benefits) fits well with our mission to further environmental and cultural conservation.All totaled, our team of photographers, biologists, conservationists and sustainability minded businesses is clearly an unstoppable force for conservation. We have launched Expedition Danajon Bank with the ultimate goal of securing legal protections for the fragile, 90-mile reef system. As photographer Luciano Candisani explains in a video about the project, “By getting this story out into the world, we hope to inspire new environmental protections for Danajon Bank.

About Coral Reefs and Danajon Bank

Coral reefs are among the fastest-diminishing ecosystems in our oceans, thanks to overfishing, pollution, and climate change. Little-known to the outside world, Danajon Bank is one of the most important marine ecosystems in the entire Pacific Ocean. Species located all over the Pacific are thought to have first evolved at Danajon Bank.

This “center of the center” of marine biodiversity is home to at least 200 threatened animals, such as the elusive tiger-tail seahorse. The region encompasses many of our oceans’ most important and threatened marine habitats, including not just coral but mangroves and seagrasses. The Danajon Bank is also home to hundreds of thousands of people who depend on it for food and livelihoods.

Unfortunately, Danajon Bank faces many threats, including overfishing and destructive fishing practices (such as blast fishing with explosives), as well as overdevelopment and climate change. With so much at stake, it is time to launch a campaign that highlights Danajon Bank and all the species – including humans – that depend on it. And as photographer Tom Peschak explains, “There really is no better way to communicate the urgent need for marine conservation than through images that hit you in the head and the heart.”

Comprehensive Portrait of a Timely Conservation Issue

Expedition Danajon Bank is the type of photo expedition iLCP is best known for, where our photographers produce a comprehensive portrait of a timely conservation issue and threat — imagery we then use to support a conservation program, project, or campaign.

Beginning in June, photographs from Danajon Bank will be shown in public exhibits at aquariums in Chicago, Hong Kong, Manila and London. iLCP and Project Seahorse will also publish a hardcover book about Expedition Danajon Bank. Also, our photographers will share stories from the expedition in National Geographic News Watch and other media outlets. All of these communications efforts will bring increased world attention to this global marine treasure in need of protection. As Project Seahorse Director Amanda Vincent points out, “Not many people have heard of Danajon Bank, and we plan to change that.”

To learn more about our project, and how you can help conserve Danajon Bank, please visit our project page. With your help, Expedition Danajon Bank and our follow-up public education and legal protection campaign will inspire people and influence policymakers in the Philippines and around the world to take up the cause of conserving Danajon Bank.

We hope you’ll become part of this unstoppable force!