The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has issued Administrative Order (DAO) No. 2012-08 designating a 5,756-hectare (57.56 square kilometer) area spanning the five barangays of Vinapor, Gosoon, San Agustin, Cahayagan and Tagcatong in Carmen, Agusan del Norte as the “Carmen Critical Habitat” for marine turtles.
The second largest critical habitat, Carmen Critical Habitat for Marine Turtles, spans nearly 6,000 hectares is home to the critically endangered species of marine turtles such as the hawksbill sea turtle (Eretmochelys imbricate). In accordance with Republic Act 9147 or the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act, the declaration of the area as a critical habitat will help guarantee the continued existence and encouragement to the local community to work with the local government units and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in protecting and conserving the marine turtles species found in the area. Sea turtles, although migratory, are known to nest in beaches where they have been hatched despite after having traveled thousands of miles across the ocean.
Carmen is a fourth class municipality known for its dive sites owing to a rich marine life, particularly in Vinapor and Tagcatong. The designated critical habitat, along with other coastal areas in the adjacent municipality of Magsaysay in Misamis Oriental, has been observed as nesting grounds of the hawksbill sea turtle.
Under the 2012 administrative order, the DENR-Caraga regional office would establish the statistical, topographic and geographic features of the area and ensure that the ecosystems within the critical habitat are preserved and kept conducive for the marine turtles and other forms of wildlife. This includes ensuring that developmental activities within and around the area would safeguard the ecological integrity of the critical habitat.
The regional office is also tasked to enforce all applicable environmental laws against “prohibited acts” defined under RA 9147, such as dumping of waste products, human settlement, mineral extraction or exploration, burning, logging and quarrying.