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NEWS UPDATES 18 May 2009

Five littoral countries sign initiative to save Coral Triangle

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Leaders of six nations - Timor Leste, Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands - agreed on Friday to work jointly to save Southeast Asia’s massive Coral Triangle, considered the world’s richest underwater wilderness, AFP reported.

The leaders signed the Coral Triangle Initiative (CTI) on Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Security at the World Ocean Conference in Manado, Indonesia.

The CTI calls for stronger international cooperation to combat illegal fishing and environmental destruction in an area half the size of the United States and home to half the world’s coral reefs.

According to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), the Coral Triangle holds the “richest concentration” of iridescent corals, fish, crustaceans, mollusks and marine plants in the world.

The CTI was praised by environmental groups as a rare example of high-level leaders backing an ambitious conservation plan.

Conservation International head Peter Seligmann said in a statement: “In 30 years of conservation work, I have never seen anything like this; six leaders signing a commitment to protect their marine resources for the wellbeing of their citizens and future generations.”

Scientists say a combination of climate change, overfishing and pollution is destroying ecosystems in the Coral Triangle, which is a vital source of food for millions of people and a nursery for maritime life from turtles to tuna.

Under the CTI, the littoral countries agreed to expand protected ocean reserves by millions of hectares and establish joint strategies for identifying key ecosystems and species for conservation.

The agreement calls for fishing to be banned from 20 percent of each major coastal habitat in the Triangle, such as coral reefs, mangrove forests and seagrass areas, but sets no specific time target.

It sets targets ranging between 2012 and 2020 for the designation and establishment of “priority seascape” marine reserves and stronger legislation and planning to curb overfishing and protect threatened species.

The CTI also calls for the establishment within four years of a plan to help coastal and small island ecosystems adapt to consequences of climate change, such as rising sea levels, warming waters and increases in acidity.

Indonesia—a massive archipelago of 17,000 islands—said it would set aside 20 million ha of maritime conservation parks by 2020, up from the current 13.4 million. But the overall plan contains no solid combined target on the protected areas.


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