Island News

WWF joins forces to save the ‘Coral Triangle’

Written By : Jackie Thomas, Pacific Policy Officer, WWF Coral Triangle Programme. WWF South Pacific Programme is working to conserve the world’s richest garden of corals and sea life, the
16 Oct 2010 12:00

image Written By : Jackie Thomas, Pacific Policy Officer, WWF Coral Triangle Programme. WWF South Pacific Programme is working to conserve the world’s richest garden of corals and sea life, the ‘Coral Triangle’.
The global conservation organisation is implementing innovative and far reaching solutions to help address the threats to the Coral Triangle region and neighbouring marine habits including Fiji.
What is the Coral Triangle?
The Coral Triangle – the nursery of the seas – is the most diverse marine region on the planet, matched in its importance to life on Earth only by the Amazon rainforest and the Congo basin.
Defined by marine areas containing 76% of the world’s coral reef species, it covers around 6 million square kilometres of ocean across six countries in the Indo-Pacific – Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Solomon Islands, and Timor-Leste.
Neighbouring countries like Fiji, Vanuatu, New Caledonia and Australia also contain rich coral and fish biodiversity but are outside the scientific delineated boundary of the Coral Triangle. However, good management of their marine and coastal resources is also important.
This centre of marine life shelters thousands of whales, dolphins, rays, sharks and six of the world’s seven species of marine turtles. It is home to 37% of the world’s coral reef fish species, including commercially vital yellow fin, skipjack and bigeye tuna which supports a multibillion dollar commercial fishing industry supplying tuna throughout the world.
The region also holds incredible cultural diversity. While there are over 2,000 languages spoken across these waters, all of these cultures share a strong and essential traditional connection to the sea.
More than 120 million coastal people directly rely on the marine resources of the Coral Triangle which generates billions of dollars a year from nature-based tourism alone.
A complex mix of diverse habitats – from river estuaries and mangrove forests, to sea grass beds and coral reef ecosystems – support this array of marine biodiversity.

Marine life at risk
This abundant marine life is now at risk. Unsustainable fishing, poorly planned development, pollution, a growing population and the effects of climate change are all contributing to the degradation of the Coral Triangle.
In 2007, the governments of the six Coral Triangle countries joined forces to conserve the marine biodiversity and livelihoods of the area through the Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Security.
At the 2009 World Oceans Conference in Manado, the six Heads of State made a series of commitments to the Coral Triangle Initiative on behalf of their governments and launched a Regional Plan of Action to tackle threats to the Coral Triangle through activities promoting seascapes, a network of marine protected areas, an ecosystems approach to fisheries management, climate change adaptation, and improving the status of threatened species.
WWF is part of a team of development partners supporting the governments and their Coral Triangle Initiative and has been pioneering conservation in the Coral Triangle for more than two decades, collaborating with partners in the private sector, governmental agencies and civil society.
By providing technical expertise, helping to identify funding, and promoting innovative public-private partnerships, WWF is committed to ensure that the Coral Triangle Initiative catalyzes measurable changes through its own Coral Triangle Programme.
“Through the WWF Coral Triangle Programme, we are working across the Pacific and South East Asia to safeguard the health of the region’s valuable resources and to secure the millions of livelihoods that depend upon them,” said Jackie Thomas, WWF’s Pacific Policy Officer for the Coral Triangle Programme.
“Our activities aim to promote sustainable tuna fisheries, protect marine turtles and reduce their by-catch, reduce the impacts of climate change, help identify sustainable financing for marine protected areas and to build a sustainable live reef fish trade,” said Ms Thomas.
Actions for on-the-ground conservation efforts and sustainable resource management focuses on existing WWF project sites in the Fiji Islands Marine Ecoregions, Bismarck Solomon Seas, and Sulu-Sulawesi, Banda Flores Marine Ecoregions.
The WWF team in Fiji is part of WWF’s Coral Triangle Programme and is implementing key strategies and actions on the ground and at a regional and national policy level in the Pacific region.
The team, headquartered in Suva, works with coastal communities to improve sustainability of their local marine resources through community, co-management and ecosystem- wide approaches.
Policy staff advocate for stronger regional and national legislation and policies to help conserve sea turtles and marine mammals and to improve governance of offshore fisheries.
Building capacity and resilience of communities against climate and environmental change is another key element of WWF’s work. It also includes supporting Pacific Islands governments with information and expertise in international negotiations on important issues such as climate change.
An exciting area of work for WWF in the South Pacific is developing strong partnerships with the private sector to reduce business and industry’s foot print through initiatives aimed at improved energy efficiency, less use of fossil fuels, improved business practices and sustainable fishing methods.
The initial focus of this corporate sector engagement is with the tourism sector, sugar cane industry and commercial fishing sector.
The key to successful conservation outcomes is working in partnership with a range of stakeholders and WWF is a strong advocate for such partnerships.
The Coral Triangle Initiative is one such partnership which is inspiring action and commitment from national governments, communities, regional organisations, international and national NGOs, donors and research institutions.
For more information on the Coral Triangle Initiative, WWF’s Coral Triangle Programme or the South Pacific Programme activities please contact Jackie Thomas, Phone: +679 3315533, Email: jthomas@wwfpacific.org.fj. Visit:www.panda.org/coraltriangle


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