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CORAL TRIANGLE PROGRAM AIMS TO SAVE THE REEF
WWF’s Coral Triangle Programme Leader, Dr Lida Pet-Soede, candidly recounts her magical experience in the underwater world of Komodo National Park, Indonesia
These days, my visits to the underwater world only occur when I go on leave. Sometimes I ask myself how it happened that I am trying to help conserve the Coral Triangle’s ecosystems and transform unsustainable harvest practices from my desk in a little rented house/office amidst the Balinese rice fields. At least, my spare time is easily spent with a snorkel or dive mask among some of the most outstanding coral reefs in the Coral Triangle.
The Coral Triangle is the global center of marine biodiversity. It covers 5.7 million km2 and encompasses all, or parts of, the exclusive economic zones (EEZ) of six countries: Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, the Solomon Islands, and Timor-L’Este. The Coral Triangle’s vast marine resources are critical for both economic and food security, and are a global biodiversity conservation priority.
These resources directly sustain the lives of more than 120 million people living in coastal areas and millions more globally, providing a range of essential goods and services that include wild-catch fisheries, aquaculture, tourism, coastal protection, and transport.
However the pace and scale of degradation across this region demands significant investment by WWF and many others - a strategy of change that brings together the often conflicting forces of conservation and industry around new and innovative partnerships, delivering real socio-economic value through conservation. With climate change now a universally-acknowledged threat, long-term economic, social and geo-political security is uncertain.
How does one keep up the energy to try and make a difference?
Last July, my family and I visited Komodo National Park. We have been diving there since 1994, when my husband started working with The Nature Conservancy to urge the Indonesian Government to add a marine component to the protection and management of this World Heritage Site, which is famous for its dragons. The waters of Komodo are known for their treacherous currents, which push large volumes of water with the tides into the Pacific or Indian Ocean.
One morning, we drifted along one of those currents, with my 8-year-old on my back, and came face to face with 3 large manta rays. Later, fighting a bit of current, we swam down as fast as we could to reach the submerged pinnacle of Castle Rock with my 13 year old. Completely out of breath, we hung on to each other and looked up to see at least 12 sharks swimming around us, 3 of which were the rather shy grey reef sharks. At the end of the day, we sat in a speedboat with the whole family aboard on a bumpy ride to reach some deserted beach, while the sun slowly melted into the sea behind us.
It is these experiences that make me feel small but rather hopeful that nature, when at its wildest, can take care of itself.
Returning to reality and home, friend and colleague Helen Fox (Marine Conservation Science Unit Leader) tells me she just has finished reading Earth by Bill McKibben. As she summarises the book to me, I feel sad that we don't see the changes to nature when we are so close to it, and yet I know that they are so significant that we need to act and cannot count on nature to save itself.
Back at the office, I am faced with an impossible list of things to do (including more than 600 emails), challenging me to figure out where my efforts are best served to support the interventions that we need to turn the tide.
But as my husband texts me to confirm the dates for our dive trip in Komodo comming January 2012, I realize that I would not want to spend my working hours on anything else but to try and make a difference along with the many determined experts and supporters.
Help WWF’s efforts to protect the Coral Triangle by buying a virtual spot in this amazing region: www.panda.org/mycoraltriangle