The Coral Triangle

In all the oceans covering our planet, there is a special place nestled between Asia and Australia that harbors 75% of all known coral species on Earth. An underwater forest of kaleidoscopic beauty, it is known as the Coral Triangle.

WOPA060704_D007About Photo: Close-up underwater photograph of a Mushroom Leather Coral taken in the area of Papua New Guinea and Sulawesi.
Both humans and marine life depend on the Coral Triangle:

  • Much of the seafood we eat here in Hong Kong every day comes from the Coral Triangle.
  • 126 million people’s livelihoods depend on the Coral Triangle.
  • The reefs of the Coral Triangle buffer coastal communities in places like Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands from tropical storms.
  • 40% of the world’s reef fish species use the Coral Triangle as nurseries, feeding grounds, and their homes.

Reefs Under Threat

Overfishing and highly destructive techniques like blast fishing with explosives and cyanide fishing are damaging hundreds of kilometers of reefs in the Coral Triangle and depleting marine life to lower levels every day. Without our intervention, species levels could drop soon to below the point of recovery.

Rising sea temperatures, rising sea levels, and ocean acidification are also disturbing these once-pristine reefs—scientists estimate we could lose 70% of the world’s reefs in the next 50 years due to climate change.

Losing the reefs of the Coral Triangle would be far more serious than the loss of one of the world’s most beautiful habitats—it could mean less seafood for us to eat, and could even threaten the very survival of millions of people and species.

How You Can Help

Despite the mounting threats, there is hope. Some of the coral species are weathering the effects of climate change surprisingly well, and if we’re able to protect parts of the Coral Triangle, and make fishing practices more sustainable, the reefs could continue to thrive.

For 15 years, the Conservancy has been joining with local communities, marine scientists and government alliances to fight for the survival of these reefs. Though just 2.6% of the Coral Triangle is protected, The Nature Conservancy ambitiously aims to ensure 15% of the Triangle is protected within the next decade. Our goal over the next three years: enable local decision-makers to set aside 12 more preserves, protecting 5 million hectares of the most biodiverse and resilient marine habitat in the Triangle.

By establishing marine reserves, protecting coastlines from illegal fishing, and restoring damaged marine habitats like mangrove forests, we can help keep the Coral Triangle healthy and beautiful—as well as a sustainable source of much of the seafood we eat.

A History of Conservation Success in the Coral Triangle

During our 15 years of working with local communities and governments to protect the reefs of the Coral Triangle, we have achieved crucial conservation successes that have helped to keep these reefs thriving. For example:

  • Conservancy scientists and field experts recently worked with local people in the Solomon Islands to design an 800-hectare Marine Protected Area to protect a broad range of species. Along with a key stretch of outer reef, the protected area encompasses mangroves, three small islands, a lagoon and a beach used by nesting Leatherback sea turtles.
  • We have already worked with partners in Kimbe Bay, Papua New Guinea, to successfully create a network of marine protected areas connected by ocean currents, which enables coral larvae from healthy reefs to replenish damaged sites. Having applied the same approaches to Berau, Indonesia, we now plan to replicate the project across the Coral Triangle.
  • The Conservancy has helped local partners protect the waters surrounding Komodo and Wakatobi National Parks and the Raja Ampat Islands by providing floating ranger stations. From these bases, rangers can patrol large areas, preventing illegal fishing and poaching.
  • In Southern Manus, Papua New Guinea, the Conservancy worked with local communities to close spawning sites to commercial fishing for the 10 days leading to a new moon. This compromise protects sensitive fish populations during peak spawning aggregations, while still allowing fishermen to do their work and feed their families.
  • Conservancy staff taught villagers living behind the mangroves in the Berau marine conservation area in Indonesia to process their low-value fish catch into an Indonesian favorite, krupuk (fish crackers), which generates considerably more income for them than fishing alone

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