50 Stories: Shaping the Coral Triangle

On April 29, 2011, WWF celebrated 50 years of environmental conservation. Join us as we highlight 50 stories in 50 days, looking back at what we’ve achieved together and looking forward to another 50 years.
It’s half the size of the USA. More than 120 million people depend on it for food and livelihood. And the range of species found there – from tiny corals to gigantic blue whales – is nothing short of mind-boggling.
You might not have heard of the Coral Triangle before – a 6 million sq km area of water off the coast of Asia and the Pacific. But there’s a good chance the tuna in your salad or sandwich came from there.
It’s home to three-quarters of the world’s reef-building corals, over a third of coral reef fish species and six of the seven species of marine turtle. Nowhere on Earth can match it – and we can’t do without it.
That’s why conserving the Coral Triangle is one of our top priorities.

Friant’s Sea Star, Papua New Guinea (c) Jurgen Freund/WWF-Canon
What’s at stake?
The Coral Triangle is under severe threat. Warming oceans and pollution are destroying its coral reefs – vital habitats for marine life.
More than two million fishermen work in the Coral Triangle, but overfishing and destructive fishing practices are seriously depleting fish stocks.
It’s the centre of the global tuna industry. Coral Triangle countries landed more than 1.2 million tonnes of tuna from the Pacific and Indian Oceans in 2009 alone. This is an unsustainable rate of growth, and if it’s not curbed, the whole multi-billion dollar industry will collapse.
The story so far
In 2009, we made a big step forward. We were part of a successful international campaign for a marine conservation strategy – the most comprehensive in the world – to protect the region.
In a groundbreaking show of conservation cooperation, heads of state from Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Solomon Islands and Timor-Leste signed on to the Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Security. It’s a far-reaching commitment to conserve coral reefs, stop the decline of sea turtles and other endangered species, and transform fishing practices. Hundreds of millions of dollars of international aid have been promised to support the initiative.
Did you know?
The 1997-98 El Niño weather event was a catastrophe for the Coral Triangle. In Southeast Asia, an estimated 18% of the region’s coral reefs were damaged or destroyed due to “coral bleaching,” which happens when oceans get too warm. But another effect of climate change – the acidification of the oceans – could be even more devastating.
Facts and stats

  • 120 million – people who depend on the Coral Triangle for food and livelihood.
  • 6m sq km – approximate area of the Coral Triangle, about half the size of the United States.
  • 605 – species of coral found in the region, three-quarters of the world’s total.
  • 2,228 – coral reef fish species found within the Coral Triangle
  • US$1.6 billion – annual economic benefits of coral reefs in Indonesia alone.

What next?
One major step will be Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification of a healthy, sustainably managed skipjack tuna fishery in the western Pacific, including Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands in the Coral Triangle region.
This would bring 15% of the world’s canned tuna under certification, helping guarantee the fishery’s future, and providing more tuna you can buy with confidence.
What you can do
From choosing to buy sustainably sourced fish to diving responsibly, there’s plenty you can do to help keep this centre of marine life alive.
Find out more about our work in the Coral Triangle.
Be part of the celebration!