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Coral Triangle Rescue Plan Gathers Momentum

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Photo courtesy ARC Centre of Excellence

Spread across a vast swath of ocean spanning Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Timor Leste, and the Solomon Islands — an area half the size of the United States — the Coral Triangle has the highest diversity of marine life of any area on Earth.

This “Amazon of the Seas,” as it has been called by the WWF, contains three quarters of the world’s known coral species, a third of the world’s coral reefs, more than 3,000 species of fish, and the world’s richest mangrove forests.

Home to more than 150 million people, the Coral Triangle generates billions of dollars in sea products each year, supporting the livelihood of more than two million fishers. The region is a major spawning ground for tuna, yellowfin and other valuable species that contribute to a perhaps as much as a third of the regional economy.

But all this is at risk from overfishing (including destructive fishing using dynamite and cyanide), coral bleaching and ocean acidification, tourism (including scuba diving), pollution, and sedimentation due to coastal development.

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Photo courtesy ARC Centre of Excellence

That is why scientists and policy makers from interested nations are gathered in Australia this week to move forward with the development of urgent action plans to rescue the world’s richest center of marine biodiversity from decline.

Marine scientists from the Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (CoECRS) at James Cook University and the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) announced yesterday that they are assisting the largest reef conservation program ever undertaken: The Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Security.

coral-triangle-1-r.jpgThe six Coral Triangle countries agreed to the program at a meeting in Manila, Philippines, last month. It is hoped that it will be signed by heads of state at the World Ocean Conference in Indonesia next May.

Photo courtesy ARC Centre of Excellence

At this week’s conference in Townsville, Australia, the Australian teams are helping present an international forum on Management and Conservation of the Coral Triangle. The gathering is hosted by Australia’s Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts.

“Everyone recognises that coral reefs, and the economic and social benefits they generate, are at risk,” CoECRS Director Terry Hughes said. “Fish, corals and climate change don’t respect national boundaries — so the need for region-wide action is paramount.

coral-triangle-2-L.jpg“This is a critical initiative by many countries, acting together for the first time, to sustain the livelihoods of millions of people,” he said.  “In developing countries, millions of local people suffer real hardship when reefs and ocean habitats are degraded. There is a social and economic imperative to protect them.”

According to AIMS Acting Research Director Frank Tirendi, “Better collaboration between Coral Triangle experts and Australian experts may well be a fundamental requirement to ensure the knowledge base is in place to prevent an environmental crisis to our north and ensure longer term regional fisheries and food security.”

Photo courtesy ARC Centre of Excellence

The Coral Triangle Initiative (CTI) was launched in 2007, following a

proposal by the Indonesian government that the regional governments get

together to protect their marine heritage.

It is a partnership between the six Coral Triangle countries, other governments, aid agencies, donors, WWF, The Nature Conservancy and Conservation International.

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Photo courtesy ARC Centre of Excellence

The CTI has a current global commitment projected to be at least $U.S. 500 million and its plan of action includes:

  • Developing an ecosystem approach to fisheries management across the Coral Triangle
  • Building a network of Marine Protected Areas across the region
  • Measures to help adaptation to climate change
  • Measures to help protect threatened marine species.

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Additional Information:

Coral Triangle Center (The Nature Conservancy)

Coral Triangle (WWF)

Coral Triangle (Defying Ocean’s End)

U.S. Announces Funding of Coral Triangle Initiative (U.S. State Department)

More from National Geographic News:

Starfish Swarm Devouring Corals in Indonesia

Coral Reef Paradise Found in Remote Indonesian Islands

New Species Found in Remote Asian Sea?

Marine-Life Hot Spots Shift Over Time, Study Says

A Third of Reef-Building Corals at Risk of Extinction

Related NatGeo News Watch entries:

Mass Extinctions Loom in Ocean Habitats, Scientist Warns

Global Fisheries Forfeit $50 Billion a Year, UN Report Says

World Governments Subsidize the Wrong Fisheries, Survey Suggests

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Photo courtesy ARC Centre of Excellence