SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - At yesterday's Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, 21 world leaders endorsed a new proposal to safeguard the rich marine resources of the Indo-Pacific region for future generations. The Coral Triangle Initiative (CTI) on Coral Reefs, Fisheries, and Food Security aims to bring together six governments in a multilateral partnership to conserve the extraordinary marine life in the region. The proposal was endorsed in the Sydney APEC Leaders' Declaration on Climate Change, Energy Security and Clean Development. U.S. President George W. Bush welcomed this Initiative during the Summit.
The Coral Triangle (CT) covers all or parts of the exclusive economic zones of Indonesia (Central and Eastern), East Timor, the Philippines, Malaysia (part of Borneo), Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. Defined by areas containing 500 or more species of coral, the Coral Triangle, sometimes referred to as the "Amazon of the Seas", is the epicenter of marine life abundance and diversity on the planet. It has more than 600 coral species in some areas (more than 75% of all known coral species), 53% of the world's coral reefs, 3,000 fish species, and the greatest extent of mangrove forests of any region in the world.
According to scientists, these marine biological resources are at risk, threatened by a range of factors, such as over-fishing, destructive fishing practices, pollution and climate change. This new initiative would address these threats and ensure long-term benefits from the marine biological resources of the region.
Rebecca Patton, Chief Conservation Strategies Officer with The Nature Conservancy, and WWF US's Chief Conservation Officer, Ginette Hemley, praised the endorsement of this new initiative. "The Coral Triangle Initiative is an incredible step forward for conservation. The protection of these coral reefs and the life they support will help our planet cope with a changing climate and ensure the livelihoods for well over 100 million people," noted Patton. "The initiative shown by the APEC economies is to be applauded," Hemley added.
The biological resources of the Coral Triangle directly sustain the lives of over 120 million people living within this area, and benefit millions more worldwide. Primary human benefits include:
==> Livelihoods, income, and food security -- particularly for populations living along coastlines within the region
==> Total annual value of coral reefs, mangroves & associated natural habitats within the CT are estimated at US $2.3 billion
==> Tuna spawning & nursery grounds support a multi-billion tuna industry, and provide for millions of consumers worldwide
==> Healthy marine resources contribute to a growing nature-based tourism industry in the region
==> Healthy reefs systems and mangroves protect coastal communities from storms and tsunamis, reducing future reconstruction costs and the need for international aid
Possible linkages between the CTI and climate change were highlighted during the APEC Summit As part of a comprehensive approach to climate change, the future impacts of climate change on our marine and coastal natural resources must be addressed in addition to significant reductions in emissions. Adaptation actions that can help to protect and sustain these resources, such as creating networks of marine reserves that are effectively designed for resilience to climate change, would be a central element of the CTI and essential to the human communities who depend on these resources.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. To date, the Conservancy and its more than one million members have been responsible for the protection of more than 15 million acres in the United States and have helped preserve more than 102 million acres in Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.
About World Wildlife Fund
Known in the United States as World Wildlife Fund and recognized worldwide by its panda logo, WWF leads international efforts to protect endangered species and their habitats and to conserve the diversity of life on Earth. Now in its fifth decade, WWF, the global conservation organization, works in more than 100 countries around the world.