THE six-country Coral Triangle Initiative created to ensure the survival of one of the most critical coastal and marine habitats on earth is at a decisive moment.
The Indonesian government, as both the brainchild of the Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs Fisheries and Food Security (CTI-CFF) and the leader of its interim secretariat, should push forward on formal establishment of the institution before political will and funds run out.
After seven years in the making, the world is looking to the six countries — Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Timor Leste — to cement their commitment through the May 2014 launch of the permanent CTI-CFF Secretariat.
The lives and livelihoods within the Coral Triangle region depend on a multi-national approach to reverse the imminent collapse of this incredibly important and severely threatened shared coastal and marine resource. As the largest of the CTI-CFF countries and most populous, Indonesia’s leadership at this moment is crucial.
Stretching across marine waters that bridge the natural resources of the Pacific and Indian Oceans and their related seas, the Coral Triangle is recognized as the global centre of marine diversity.
It is home to more than 600 species of coral (over 75% of the global total), more than 3,000 species of reef fishes (almost 40% of the global diversity), six out of seven marine turtle species, over 30% of the world’s coral reef area and the largest extent of mangrove forests in the world.
More than 130 million people in the six countries depend directly on these fish and marine resources as their principal source of income, food and livelihoods.
But these resources are under significant and increasing threat, with more than 85% threatened by overfishing, destructive fishing, watershed-based pollution and the impacts of coastal development.
When the influence of rising sea temperatures is combined with these local threats, the portion of coral reefs rated as threatened increases to more than 90%.
In response to these threats and in recognition of the incredible value of natural marine resources at risk, in May 2009, the six Coral Triangle countries collectively adopted a regional plan of action, followed by each country’s adoption of a national plan of action.
More than US$200 million in multiyear grants has been committed by various international donor agencies to directly support implementation of the Coral Triangle Initiative, and each Coral Triangle country has substantially increased its own national investments in coastal and marine resources management.
But the six Coral Triangle countries must still ratify the CTI-CFF agreement which will authorise the operation of a permanent regional secretariat and establish the CTI-CFF as a permanent program to coordinate the enhanced protection and stewardship of the coastal resources and well-being of coastal communities in the region.
The ratification is not yet done and several key actions are pending which must be accomplished in the next two months, because the official launch of the CTI-CFF Permanent Secretariat it scheduled for mid-May in Manado.
Of the six countries, only Malaysia has ratified the CTI-CFF agreement in 2013 and the other five countries, including Indonesia, are still completing the ratification procedures.
We strongly encourage the Indonesian government to sign for ratification of the document soon. This action will once again show the true leadership of Indonesia and President Yudhoyono of the CTI-CFF, which will encourage the other countries to follow.
Alan T White is a senior scientist of the Indo-Pacific division at The Nature Conservancy. Abdul Halim is senior marine policy advisor of the Indonesian Program of the Conservancy.