The Biggest Threats Facing The Coral Triangle
Guest Post by Tommy Birn
The Coral Triangle covers 6 million km2 across six countries in the western Pacific Ocean including Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Papa New Guinea, Timor-Leste and Solomon Islands.
The area houses the highest reef fish diversity in the world, with 37% of the planet’s reef fish species found in these waters. The astonishing marine and coastal resources in the Coral Triangle provide substantial benefits, supporting the livelihoods of over 100 million people who rely on the reef ecosystems for coastal protection, employment, food, and income from tourism.
While it’s clear that the region is of vital importance to both the local economies and marine biodiversity, it faces many threats including pollution, overfishing, coastal development and destructive fishing.
Serious Threats Faced by the Coral Triangle
In recent years, the area that the Coral Triangle is a part of has emerged as one of the world’s economic hubs. The rapid economic growth and a fast increase in population size have fuelled unsustainable development and a boost in demand, which is having devastating effects on the region.
Overfishing and Destructive Fishing
One of the more significant threats facing the coral reefs in the area is overfishing. In this case, too many fish are being caught, which means fish populations are unable to replenish themselves. Thousands of tonnes of non-target species perish every year including dolphins, whales, juvenile fish, and endangered sharks and marine turtles.
With increased demand for precious marine resources such as shark fin, tuna, live reef fish and turtle products, some species are being heavily exploited. Destructive fishing further exacerbates the problem by destroying the ecosystems and habitats on which the fish populations depend.
Destructive fishing methods include the use of explosives, bottom trawling and cyanide fishing. These practices are widespread and depleted fish stocks has placed endangered species on the brink of extinction.
Coastal ecosystems in the region are already facing the effects of climate change, including increasing water temperatures, acidity and raising sea levels. These changes have led to severe mass coral bleaching and reduced coral growth rates.
While reefs are resilient and can recover from coral bleaching, you see a reduction in these odds when faced with additional threats. Addressing local threats is crucial to providing reefs with an increased likelihood of surviving the adverse effects of climate change until the global community can reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Land-based pollution caused by development, agriculture, cities, and logging bring fertilisers, chemicals, and sediments to the coastal regions. They wash down from rivers and eventually settle on coral reefs and cause a bloom of algae. Corals are smothered and outcompeted by the algae, threatening local populations.
How to Help
With over 85% of these reefs facing direct threats from local human activities, it is clear that more needs to be done to conserve the area. These threats are not just a problem for marine biodiversity; they also place human populations at risk.
In the Philippines alone, reports estimate income losses from overfishing at $1.2 billion in the past 20 years. With approximately 2.25 million fishers depending on the area to make a living, the challenge is to ensure that we can meet the growing needs of the region without causing further damage to the Coral Triangle.
Restoring damaged marine habitats, protecting coastlines from illegal fishing and establishing marine protected areas and reserves will all help to conserve the area’s biodiversity. Projects such as the recycled oil platform in Malaysia provide benefits to the local areas by bringing in tourists while causing minimum harm to local biodiversity.
More importantly, kid’s programs, such as the Rainforest to Reef program in Malaysia, help to educate communities from an early age on the significance of the conservation of coral reefs. The aim is to increase awareness, deliver continued global action, and change the local attitude toward conservation.
Looking for a way to help? There are several things individuals can do to make a difference including reducing your carbon footprint, disposing of your waste in a responsible manner, adopting a reef and getting involved in My Green World’s Kids Corner education program.
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