Protecting the world’s oceans and the underwater life that sustains people everywhere takes many forms.
Conservation International (CI) is working on many fronts to protect our oceans, and one partnership in particular aims to conserve most of the world’s known coral species. In a vast marine protected area, traditional sea turtle hunters learn of alternatives to the meat and eggs harvested for food and cultural ceremonies. To stop illegal poaching of sharks for their fins, local villagers become patrollers of coastal waters with the power to make citizens’ arrests.
VIDEO: Explore the Coral Triangle
These are just some of the ways that CI is helping governments, coastal communities and local organizations protect vital marine ecosystems around the world.
A World of Oceans
This work and much more will be highlighted at the World Ocean Conference taking place in Manado, Indonesia, from May 11-15.
CI Chairman and CEO Peter Seligmann will attend, and CI’s Roger McManus, vice president for marine programs, is a keynote speaker. They will show CI’s commitment to helping governments, local communities and other partners properly manage marine resources in the face of growing global threats including climate change, overfishing and other destructive practices.
CONFERENCE: World Oceans Conference and Coral Triangle Summit 2009.
The conference is considered the most important marine conservation meeting for several years, and represents an increased awareness of both the essential role of marine ecosystems and the growing threats to their health.
Sebastian Troeng, CI’s senior director for regional marine strategies, explained that CI seeks to bolster marine conservation efforts by governments and local communities that often know what they want to do, but need expertise and resources to make it happen.
“In many ways, CI’s role is bridging the gap between global priorities and local realities,” Troeng said of government and community efforts to create networks of protected areas in Seascapes that contain some of the world’s richest and most threatened ocean regions.
The Coral Triangle
One of the most ambitious programs – and the focus of a summit meeting at the World Ocean Conference – is the Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Security (CTI). Stretching from eastern Indonesia to the Solomon Islands and encompassing parts of Malaysia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea and Timor Leste, CTI encompasses a region with more than 75 percent of the world’s known coral species, 3,000 fish species and the most extensive mangrove forests on Earth. The marine resources of CTI countries support more than 150 million people.
IN-DEPTH: Learn more about the Coral Triangle Initiative.
CI joins the nations of the CTI region and partners including The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in supporting government leadership for marine conservation activities to prevent overfishing and destructive fishing practices, reduce pollution and minimize harmful impacts of climate change.
CI supports two Seascapes – Sulu Sulawesi and Bird’s Head – in the CTI region and has worked closely with governments and communities as they create new marine protected areas around some of the most valuable marine ecosystems on the planet. With these and other partners, CI helps industries and governments understand that healthy marine ecosystems are good for business and for people.
The marine protected area networks stretch across remote regions with exotic names such as Raja Ampat and Kaimana of Indonesia’s Papua province, and the Verde Island Passage of the Philippines. On Lubang Island of the Philippines, CI joined with local communities and governments that have territory and resource rights but lack financial resources and technical capacity.
EXPLORE: Find out how CI and Partners are working to protect the oceans though Seascape programs.
“The exciting part of it was to see the level of enthusiasm,” Troeng said of a ceremony filled with singing and speeches to mark the collaboration. “Suddenly, here was an external entity that had come to Lubang because their coral reefs were so important – regionally and globally. What they have locally is important to the world.”
New Models for People and Nature
Thousands of miles to the southeast, the Ayau-Asia marine protected area in the Bird’s Head Seascape covers 101,440 hectares (250,664 acres) of islands, reefs and water. In this region of highly skilled turtle hunters, CI has worked with village elders and church leaders to substitute pork in place of traditional turtle meat. Villagers who formerly hunted turtles have been taught how to raise pigs in a sustainable way.
Back in the Philippines, CI and local NGO partner Tanggol Kalikasan Foundation have conducted law enforcement training in the Balabac Strait Corridor to help local authorities manage their marine resources. The trainees learned to identify fish caught by illegal means, such as bombing and poisoning; and practiced how to board boats and make arrests.
These on-the-ground efforts help make the bold vision of the Coral Triangle Initiative a reality and demonstrates that partnership among local communities, governments, the private sector and organizations like CI can improve ocean health and benefit people.
READ MORE: Open Your Eyes to Coral