Lida Pet-Soede's Blog

Dr. Lida Pet-Soede leads the WWF Coral Triangle Programme. She is currently based in Jakarta, Indonesia. She has graduate degrees in fisheries biology and management, aquaculture and socio-economics of developing countries from the Wageningen Agricultural University in the Netherlands and a PhD. in Fisheries Biology and Management from the same school. Born in the Netherlands, she enjoys living in Indonesia with her family and takes frequent trips showing her two daughters the beauty of the Coral Triangle.

Sticking My Head in the Coral Triangle

Working in the world's center of marine life
September 23, 2013

As Head of the WWF Coral Triangle Programme, I find myself doing as the title of this blog says—oftentimes metaphorically, and once in a while, if I’m lucky, quite literally.
I consider myself very fortunate to have the opportunity to be part of conserving this vast and unique marine region alongside equally passionate and efficient partners—all sharing the same vision to secure the welfare of the valuable yet threatened natural resources of the Coral Triangle.
For this maiden Ecozine blog entry, I would like to give you a general view of this special place we work in and the kind of efforts WWF has initiated and implemented throughout the years to ensure that the people, species, and places of the Coral Triangle remain vibrant for present and future generations.
The World’s Centre of Marine Life
The Coral Triangle is a vast area in one corner of the Asia Pacific region, which covers the seas of Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Solomon Islands, and Timor-Leste.
It gets its name from the scientific delineation around these waters with reefs that contain more than 500 species of hard coral—the ones that build reefs.
The Coral Triangle is the world’s centre of marine life, home to 75 % of all coral species known to science and more than 3,000 species of reef fish and commercially-valuable species such as tuna and sharks.
The Pacific Ocean to the East, the Indian Ocean to the South and the South China Sea to the West, where natural exchange of water brings nutrients to the shallow coastal areas, support this region’s natural wealth—its fisheries.
Importantly, the Coral Triangle is home to one of the highest human population densities in the world, directly providing food and livelihoods for more than 120 million people in the area, and benefiting millions more worldwide. Many of the coastal communities have little alternative to make a living other than fish for their food and income.
An Economic Powerhouse
One of the most lucrative and distinctive of the region’s reef-based fisheries is the live reef fish trade, with an annual estimated value of more than USD 1 billion. Reef fish are a highly valuable natural resource of the region, enjoyed by millions of people in restaurants around the globe.
The Coral Triangle also hosts four highly sought-after tuna species: Bluefin, Yellowfin, Bigeye, and Skipjack. In the Pacific alone, this industry is worth USD 3 billion annually. In 2006, tuna catch from the Pacific represented as much as 51% of the global tuna catch. Of this, the Coral Triangle countries produced around 40%. Using current prices, this catch is valued at USD 1.5 billion (which could even be much bigger with more accurate data).
Furthermore, early research shows that certain components from marine organisms could provide cures for some of our societies’ serious diseases. Imagine how important that value of the Coral Triangle would be in the future?
The Coral Triangle’s spectacular coral reefs, turtle nesting beaches, and wonderful romantic white sandy beaches make the area a much sought-after destination for tourists, divers, and photographers – it is a huge tourism asset worth over USD 12 billion annually.
A Paradise in Threat
Unfortunately, overfishing, destructive fishing, pollution and other impacts from ill-planned development, unsustainable tourism, and climate change are taking a heavy toll on this marine haven. If left unchecked, the reefs will turn to rubble and will no longer be able to sustain fish and coastal communities nor attract tourists, nor protect coastlines and coastal infrastructure.
To adress these threats and to safeguard these valuable resources for such a large and complex area, a very high level of leadership and new approaches to marry sustainability with economic development to secure food and jobs are required.
Such efforts can only bear fruit if we attain a strong level of commitment from all sectors of society—from governments, business and industry, communities, and everyday consumers.
And this is what we at WWF have been working hard to do.
WWF in the Coral Triangle
WWF has been working in the Coral Triangle for decades, collaborating with partners in the private sector, government agencies, civil society, and communities.
By providing technical expertise and funding, and promoting innovative public-private partnerships, WWF in the Coral Triangle is working to safeguard the health of this region’s natural treasures and to secure the millions of lives that depend on them by building a sustainable live reef fish trade, promoting sustainable tuna fisheries, financing marine protected areas, protecting marine turtles, and reducing the impacts of climate change.
The Role of the Private Sector
Seafood businesses and fishing operators, tourism companies, airlines, oil and gas companies all exploit the Coral Triangle’s abundant marine resources for their businesses. With rapidly expanding populations, economic growth, and the pressures of international trade, these businesses are competing more and more for fewer resources.
Cooperation for the sake of sustainable growth therefore makes more business sense now than ever before. There are growing legislative, social, and market pressures on the corporate world to take greater responsibility for environmental performances in all stages of the supply chain from the sourcing of raw product to final retail.
By taking early action to source only responsibly-managed resources, and by effectively marketing these endeavors, companies can achieve a business advantage in increasingly sophisticated and environmentally-aware global and domestic markets.
However, this move to green and sustainable development is not just interesting in the short-term. Some large businesses have recognized that growth at the expense of the environment is becoming a thing of the past.
Seeing change in the water
Several seafood companies have been engaged in improving the sustainability of fisheries by investing in different fishing gears that are not destructive to marine ecosystems, and by investing in ways fishers can retain a better product quality, hence reducing waste.
We now see examples underway also in the tourism sector, where certification programs have become valuable business assets. Such programs reward operations that exhibit best practices and help differentiate them from those that are less environmentally-sound. They also provide consumers with a way to identify the kinds of tourism businesses they wish to support.
There are numerous interesting and positive examples showing the progress and possibility of sustaining food and livelihoods and the marine diversity in this important region.
Will you join us?
As an everyday consumer, you have a very crucial role to play.
If we are to continue seeing beautiful fish swimming in the ocean for avid scuba divers, or safeguard the food security of communities within the Coral Triangle, the current level of consumption of fish and seafood products not only in Coral Triangle countries but also the broader Asian region and the rest of the world needs to be addressed urgently. Transformative measures need to be undertaken by all sectors of society—from producers, retailers, to consumers.
Solutions to move towards responsible economic development to allow us all to live within the limits of our planet already exist in this part of the world. What we need now are strong leadership, initiative, and vision to utilize existing partnerships and support the scaling up of good examples to secure our future for the next generation. 
I hope that through this blog, you will accompany me and my colleagues through this journey as I update you with personal stories from the field. And more importantly, I hope that you will be our partner in effecting positive changes in our oceans wherever you may be.
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