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Signs of hope for Coral Triangle fishermen

A fisherman holds a Red Snapper fish near his village in Konawe Bay, Kendari, South East Sulawesi, Indonesia Jefri Aries/IRIN
In the coastal areas of Riau Province on Indonesia’s Sumatra Island, fishermen who once saw their livelihoods hit by declining fish stocks are beginning to see their catch increase again.

According to the oceanography research centre of the Indonesian Institute of Sciences, this is the result of community-based efforts to protect the area’s coral reefs and keep the waters safe from illegal fishing.

“Before, local fishermen were discouraged, because they would protect the coral reefs but transboundary fishermen [from beyond Indonesia] would come and get their fish,” Suharsono, the centre’s director, told IRIN. “But since the local government gave them the right to manage their area, they have been successful in keeping transboundary fishermen away.”

The Coral Triangle Initiative (CTI), which covers maritime areas around the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Timor-Leste, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, hopes to replicate efforts like these, and bring hope to fishing communities.

See map of the Coral Triangle

The triangle contains more than a third of all known coral species on earth, 53 percent of the world's coral reefs, more than 3,000 fish species, the greatest extent of mangrove forests of any region in the world, and the spawning grounds for the largest tuna fishery in the world, according to data from the CTI Secretariat.

A fisherman hauls a huge yellow fin tuna on his back. Dwindling catch of the fish that sustains a community of over half a million people in General Santos is being blamed on sudden sea temperature changes due to global warming
Photo: Jason Gutierrez/IRIN
A fisherman hauls a huge yellow fin tuna on his back in the Philippines

However, the triangle is under threat from overfishing, illegal fishing methods and climate change.

The destruction of the coral reefs in the triangle poses a threat to some 120 million people who depend on its marine resources, and to global tuna supplies.

Less than two years after CTI was first proposed in August 2007, a plan of action is expected to be signed by the leaders of all six participating countries during a summit on 15 May.

The plan includes commitments to effectively manage priority seascapes and marine protected areas, adopt climate change adaptation measures, and improve the status of threatened species, as well as the livelihoods and incomes of millions of people living in coastal areas within the triangle.

“The CTI is an unprecedented cooperation. This has never been seen before in the marine community,” Rili Djohani, director of The Nature Conservancy in Indonesia, told a seminar in Jakarta on 14 April, adding that the summit is expected to result in a major funding boost for the project.

“What we have learned from this is that no one can do this alone. You can work together to make an impact.”


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information:

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