MANILA, PHILIPPINES - Senior officials from six Asia-Pacific nations, whose territories include some of the most unique and threatened marine species in the world, are forging a comprehensive draft plan to protect these natural treasures.
Representatives from Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, the Solomon Islands and Timor-Leste - the six countries that make up the so-called 'Coral Triangle' - are expected to finalize The Coral Reefs, Fisheries, and Food Security Plan of Action at a meeting to be held in Manila on Thursday.
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is hosting a parallel meeting of partner agencies that support the Coral Triangle Initiative. The Global Environment Facility (GEF), the United States and Australian Governments, and the environmental groups Conservation International, The Nature Conservancy and the World Wide Fund for Nature have all reaffirmed their strong support.
The Coral Triangle, dubbed the "Amazon of the Seas", covers a 5.7 million square kilometer expanse of ocean with 75% of all known coral species in the world.
This region is facing a grave threat from climate change, which many scientists believe is causing sea water temperatures to rise, bleaching and killing off reefs. Harmful fishing practices have also caused serious damage to vital ecosystems, with the rising sea level from climate change further threatening these resources in the longer run.
The Coral Triangle Initiative (CTI), a regional effort to preserve and manage the region's marine resources, was launched last year by the six countries, along with international partners, including the ADB, which is coordinating the mobilization of financial support for the plan of action.
"Elements of the action plan are already getting underway, and it will be fully operational after its endorsement by leaders of the participating countries at a Coral Triangle Initiative Summit in Indonesia, planned for May 2009," said David McCauley, ADB Principal Environment Specialist.
The plan focuses on a series of steps to protect and sustain marine life in the triangle. It will include local, national and regional projects that work towards common objectives agreed on by the countries.
ADB initially expects to implement three subprojects under the CTI plan, all of which will receive GEF funding.
One project in the Western Pacific region of the Coral Triangle will generate sustainable livelihoods for families depending on the sea for their income, and help address pressures on reefs and local fisheries. ADB will provide grant-financed technical assistance for the project, which will also include funding from the Government of Finland.
A second project will support Southeast Asian nations' efforts to protect the marine environment, ensure that fishing remains sustainable, and develop models for the sustainable financing of marine protected areas through strengthened policies and institutions.
A third, triangle-wide project will support regional information exchange - including the latest scientific data on climate change - and will help strengthen country collaboration in carrying out the overall action plan, and in monitoring coastal and marine environments. ADB will provide regional technical assistance for this project.
The Coral Triangle Initiative was launched in 2007 to foster improved coastal and marine resource management and adaptation to climate change in the region. The initiative has brought together governments, international agencies, nongovernmental agencies and the private sector for the purpose of protecting these environmentally and economically vital resources. The principal international partners supporting the program are the Global Environment Facility, the Asian Development Bank, the Governments of the United States and Australia and the environmental groups World Wide Fund for Nature, The Nature Conservancy and Conservation International. ADB serves as the lead agency for managing contributions to the program.