Alcyonacea is an order of colonial cnidarians found throughout the oceans of the world, especially in the tropics like the Philippines. The name “Gorgonacea” is no longer considered valid and Alcyonacea is now the accepted name for the order. Gorgonians as they are called are also known as sea whips or sea fans and are similar to the sea pen, a soft coral. Gorgonians are closely related to coral. Individual tiny polyps form colonies that are normally erect, flattened, branching, and reminiscent of a fan. Others may be whiplike, bushy, or even encrusting. A colony can be several feet high and across but only a few inches thick. They may be brightly coloured, often purple, red, or yellow.
Last March while diving in Albay Gulf, it was surprising there were abundant sea fans in Pasig Out and Itom na Buya sites, I was quick to presume that its environment has started to regain its balance. Fan are normally feeding with planktons and particulate matters, obviously its waters now healthy enough to contain such compounds enabling the food chain of existing marine life. The area is laden with currents, although it wasn’t strong during our dives.
Gorgonians are classified in Cnidaria alongside the orders Alcyonacea (soft corals) and Pennatulaces (sea pens). There are about 500 different species of gorgonians found in the oceans of the world, but the are particularly abundant in the shallow waters in Indo-Pacific like the Philippines.