Why are mooring buoys important?

You may not realize it but that cheery red sphere bobbing in the water is a superhero to coral reefs around the world. Mooring buoys are essential to marine tourism as they discourage boats from dropping their anchors and possibly hitting and destroying fragile coral reefs.

Sharing buoys is always fun!
Sharing buoys is always fun! Tour operators from El Nido town also use the buoys installed by El Nido Resorts.

El Nido Resorts first installed mooring buoys in Bacuit Bay in the 1990s. These buoys were of the traditional variety, wherein the anchor line and buoy are attached to a mooring block on the sea floor (FIGURE 1). The mooring block was a pyramid of concrete blocks held together with a steel pin (FIGURE 2). A total of 21 buoys were installed in high-traffic areas such as the Big Lagoon, Pangulasian, South Miniloc, Twin Rocks, Abdeens, North Rock, West Entalula, and Dilumacad. At that time, the traditional design was chosen because it did not need special equipment to be installed.

buoy - traditional system
FIGURE 1: The traditional mooring buoy system (Project Aware Foudation and PIRA)
old mooring buoys installed_small
FIGURE 2: What the mooring blocks look like now. Some of them even have corals growing on them!

In 2011, ENR partnered with the Asian Conservation Foundation (ACF) to install 11 new mooring buoys using the Halas system. Halas buoys consist of a stainless steel eyebolt that’s cemented into a hole drilled into the sea floor (FIGURE 3). ENR and ACF rented underwater drilling equipment from the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park (TRNP). The advantages of the Halas system are that it is easy to maintain once installed and is less expensive in the long run. The main upfront expenses are the rental of the drilling equipment and the hiring of experienced underwater drillers. ENR’s Environment Department continues to monitor and maintain the buoys. Both the new and old buoys are used by El Nido Resorts and tour operators from El Nido town.

buoy - halas system
FIGURE 3: The Halas mooring buoy system (Project Aware Foundation and PIRA)
installing mooring buoys El Nido Palawan El Nido Resorts
FIGURE 4: Mesach and Rey of the ENR Environment Team attach the stainless steel shackle with the mooring buoy downline to the eyebolt installed in Popolcan.
Project Aware Foundation and PADI International Resort Association (PIRA). Mooring Buoy Planning Guide. International PADI, Inc. California, USA

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