The Coral Triangle

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The CORAL TRIANGLE, which is composed of eastern Indonesia, parts of Malaysia, the entire Philippines, Papau New Guinea, Timor Lester and the Solomon Islands is the center of global marine biodiversity and is one of the top priorities for marine conservation. It is home to over 600 reef-building coral species (75% of all species) and more than 3,000 species of reef fish. Indonesia and the Philippines together hold a massive 77% of the regions’ coral reefs. Our very own Tubbataha Reef located in the Sulu Sea, with corals covering more than 81,000 acres, is the heart of coral diversity for the region.

Several conservation groups like the Nature Conservancy and WWF are working with a range of partners to protect the coastal and marine ecosystems of this vast area which covers an area of 2.3 million square miles or the equivalent to half of the entire United States. The key threats to this Coral Triangle is over-fishing which is threatening 64% of Southeast Asia’s reefs, and destructive fishing practices, threatening two-thirds of the reefs in the Philippines, Malaysia and Taiwan, and 50% of the reefs in Indonesia. Sedimentation and pollution associated with coastal development and changes in land use also put 37% of the regions reefs and marine habitats at risk, as well as mass coral bleaching.

Recently, a group of U.S. and Philippine scientists may have discovered new marine species in the Coral Triangle particularly in the Celebes Sea. The expedition team led by Larry Madin and composed of over two dozen U.S. and Philippine scientists and a group from National Geographic — including underwater photographer Emory Kristof, returned to Manila last Tuesday, October 16, after spending about two weeks in the Celebes Sea off Tawi-Tawi, the Philippines’ southernmost provincial archipelago, about 687 miles (1,100 kilometers) south of Manila..

Madin, of the Massachusetts-based Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), said that they were able to explore to a depth of 9,186 feet (2,800 meters) using a remotely operated camera and had collected about 100 different specimens, including several possibly newly discovered species. One was a sea cucumber that is nearly transparent which could swim by bending its elongated body. Another was an unusually black jellyfish that was found near the bottom of the sea. But the most striking creature they found was a spiny orange-colored worm that had 10 tentacles like a squid. He said it would take “a few more weeks” of research in the United States to determine whether the species they have brought back are newly discovered. He expects to release a report by early next month.

REFERENCE: MSNBC.com, Nature Conservancy, WWF

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