The Marine Science Department of Silliman University initiated a marine research project in Sumilon Island. This project was led by
Dr. Angel Alcala, a pioneer scientist who grew up in a fishing community in Negros. The project studied the effects a pilot marine protected area would have on the surrounding fishing communities.
The idea – to sell the concept of marine conservation to the local fishing communities as a method of improving yields – was revolutionary. Dr. Alcala’s theory was that a marine protected area would benefit the fisheries around it through two factors:
1. There would be a spillover of adult fish from the protected area into the surrounding area, where the protected area functions as a shelter for fish to escape, mature and spawn
2. Fish spawning in the protected area would produce larvae that is carried by the currents to other communities on the reef
As such, Sumilon Island became the Philippines’ first small marine protected area, where fishing and other human activity was banned.