The Coral Triangle is the nursery of our seas, a global epicentre of marine biodiversity. It's located in the western Pacific Ocean and includes the waters of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands.
Named for its staggering number of corals (nearly 600 different species of reef-building corals alone), the region nurtures six of the world’s seven marine turtle species and more than 2,000 species of reef fish. Our tropical ocean ecosystems are intimately connected to the Coral Triangle through the migratory species we share.
However, current levels and methods of harvesting fish and other resources are not sustainable and place the Coral Triangle and its people in jeopardy. WWF is taking up the challenge to develop sustainable solutions for the region’s inhabitants and protect one of the most diverse marine habitats on Earth at the same time.
What we're doing
Sustainable coastal fisheries
Fishing is critical to the lives and social fabric of the coastal peoples of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands. WWF is working closely with communities to foster and strengthen fisheries co-management. This aims to reduce fishing pressures on heavily exploited reef and lagoon systems while still enabling fishers to meet their food and economic needs.
Banking on sustainable fishing
In the Pacific islands, women play a number of critical roles in coastal fisheries. In addition to fishing, they are often responsible for selling fish and managing their family's money. By helping to build their financial literacy and provide access to microfinance, we hope to ensure that the money they earn from fisheries enhances their economic future. Over time, this will hopefully reduce families' reliance on catching fish, easing the pressure on the heavily exploited reefs.
Why it matters
The Coral Triangle's biological and economic value is nothing short of phenomenal. It contains spawning and nursery grounds that support a multi-billion dollar tuna industry and supplies millions of consumers worldwide. Its marine resources also contribute to a growing nature-based tourism industry, valued at over US$12 billion annually. More than 120 million people living in the Coral Triangle rely on its coral reefs for food, income and protection from storms. Their everyday lives and cultures are inextricably linked to the sea but their location also makes them highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. The Coral Triangle has emerged as one of the planet’s economic hubs but it has come at a price. Fast population and economic growth has fuelled unsustainable coastal development and boosted demand for expensive marine resources such as tuna, shark fin, turtle products and live reef fish. The challenge now is to ensure that the region's growing needs do not compromise the health of its natural wonders.
While only covering 1.6% of the planet’s oceanic area, the region has 76% of all known coral species in the world. As a habitat for 52% of Indo-Pacific reef fishes and 37% of the world's reef fishes, it encompasses the highest diversity of coral reef fishes in the world.
The Coral Triangle and Climate Change: Ecosystems, People, and Societies at Risk
Overfishing and destructive fishing methods harm fragile reefs and devastate fish and other marine populations in the Coral Triangle. A growing human population and the effects of climate change also threaten this precious area. Fishing is an essential source of income and food for local people. However, fish stocks are being depleted beyond levels from which they can never recover. Global demand for tuna has led to an alarming decline in tuna populations within the Coral Triangle. Grouper and snapper – essential to Asia’s booming live reef fish trade – are also at risk. The warming and rising of seas, ocean acidification and the resulting coral bleaching are the most pronounced impacts of climate change. Not only are these changes endangering marine animals like reef fish and marine turtles; they're also threatening local livelihoods derived from fishing and tourism, and jeopardising a critical protein supply for more than 100 million people. Fishing gear does not discriminate between target fish and endangered species. Every year thousands of tonnes of non-target species die in gill nets and on long lines. Whales, dolphins, and seabirds commonly suffer this fate and it is particularly devastating for juvenile fish, and endangered marine turtles and sharks. Without local policies or enforcement, the bycatch is of growing concern.