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Coral Triangle

Saving Earth's Richest Coral Reefs

Pioneering strategies to boost the ability of coral reefs to survive the impacts of climate change.

Thousands of miles of vibrant coral reefs encircle the islands of Southeast Asia — the Coral Triangle.

The Coral Triangle is one of the planet’s great marvels — a place of remarkable richness, bursting with color and life.

But overfishing, blast fishing, pollution and climate change are destroying the reefs — threatening the wild species and millions of people that depend upon them.

The Conservancy is Thinking Big About the Coral Triangle

With a colossal goal of protecting 15 percent of the marine habitat of the Coral Triangle over the next decade — up from the only 2.6 percent currently protected — The Nature Conservancy has to think big.

From rigorous research to governmental alliances, the Conservancy is engaging on many fronts throughout the region to protect these irreplaceable reefs. Our scientists are pioneering strategies to boost the ability of coral reefs to survive the impacts of climate change.

And we have innovative, multi-partner projects on the ground and in the water in three Coral Triangle nations — Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.

Our priority sites include:

Preserving the Reefs though Partnerships and Science

Conservancy experts believe that the best way to help the reefs survive is to set aside large underwater tracts or “seascapes” as official Marine Protected Areas (MPA), link them into a region-wide network and equip local partners to manage them.

The MPAs aren’t just good for nature; they’re good for people, too. These restricted zones give fish populations room to regenerate and replenish surrounding waters, providing fish for island families and for export, and attracting ecotourism income.

Successful MPAs involve several components:

  • Our scientists conduct extensive research and use that data to advise countries on the creation of MPAs. By sharing information on which marine areas are the most biologically rich, threatened and resilient, we can help ensure that the right places are set aside.
    • Example: Conservancy scientists and field experts recently worked with local people in the Solomon Islands to design a 2,000-acre MPA that will protect a broad range of species. Along with a key stretch of outer reef, the protected area encompasses mangroves, three small islands, a lagoon and a beach used by nesting Leatherback turtles. 
  • We are coordinating our efforts at the regional level to ensure that these protected areas are connected by ocean currents, which will enable coral larvae from healthy reefs to replenish damaged sites — a strategy of heightened importance given possible impacts of climate change.
    • Example: We have already worked with partners in Kimbe Bay, Papua New Guinea, to successfully create such a network, applied the same approaches to Berau, Indonesia, and plan to replicate the project across the Coral Triangle. 
  • Conservancy scientists help develop management plans for MPAs and train local people to monitor and protect them.
    • Example: The Conservancy has helped local partners protect the waters surrounding Komodo and Wakatobi National Parks and the Raja Ampat Islands by providing floating ranger stations. From these bases, rangers can patrol large areas, prevent poaching and enforce other regulations. 
  • Our experts in the field connect with local communities to learn what resources they need from the marine areas. Our scientists then help determine if there are sustainable ways to harvest those resources.
    • Example: In Southern Manus, Papua New Guinea, the Conservancy worked with local communities to close spawning sites for commercial fishing for 10 days leading to a new moon. This compromise protects sensitive fish populations during peak spawning aggregations while allowing fishermen to continue their livelihood and fishing for subsistence. 
  • We also help communities develop alternative livelihoods.
    • Example: Conservancy staff taught villagers living behind the mangroves in the Berau marine conservation area in Indonesia to process their low value fish catch into an Indonesian favorite, krupuk (fish crackers), which generates considerably more income for them. 
Towards a Sustainable Future

The Nature Conservancy is accelerating its efforts in the Coral Triangle. Our goal over the next three years: equip and encourage decision-makers to set aside 12 more preserves, protecting 12.4 million acres of the most biodiverse and resilient marine habitat to function as refuges that seed the recovery of more sensitive areas nearby.

Because effective conservation requires ongoing management, we are developing a $10 million Coral Triangle Trust Fund that is expected to attract $50 million in public and matching funding for Marine Protected Area development and management.

Our scientists will continue building our knowledge of this remarkable area and sharing that knowledge with decision-makers, from prime ministers to local fishermen.

And every day, our experts will be in the water and on the ground, working right alongside local people, finding ways to protect this remarkable place — for the benefit of their children and the world. 

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