The Coral Triangle is a story around the robust nature of the ocean ecology of South East Asia. This is markedly different to its similar namesake ‘The Bermuda Triangle’, an area steeped in mystery and dark superstition. There is no relationship between the two!!!
Now that is clear, what is the Coral Triangle and what is its significance on the ocean, on humanity, wildlife and (very importantly) on Scuba Diving in the region.
The Coral Triangle is a diverse collection of reefs that a dotted around the oceans of the Philippines, Indonesia (particularly Bali), Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, and Timor-Leste. Often referred to as the ‘Amazon of the Ocean’, this remarkable ecosystem in South East Asia hosts over 30 percent of the world’s coral reefs that span around 6 million square kilometres (2.3 million square miles). Humpback whales, Mola Mola, Manta and an array of exotic creatures call the Coral Triangle their home.
“If you go to a place in the Coral Triangle – like the Verde Island Passage or Bali – there’s so much microhabitat diversity,” says Luiz Rocha, a coral reef scientist at the California Academy of Sciences. “You can go 90 metres (100 yards) from one reef to another, and the reef composition will be completely different.”
The Coral Triangle has the highest coral diversity and the largest number of coral reef fish species globally, nurturing 76 percent of the world’s coral species (approximately 605 species) and 37 percent of coral reef fish species (approximately 2,220 species).
The Coral Triangle is home to six of the world’s seven species of the sea turtle. Many other exotic and friendly wildlife call the Coral Triangle their number one place to hang out, to mate, to feed and to graciously pose for our underwater photographers and spectators.
Unlike our friends and close neighbours at the Great Barrier Reef or the Caribbean Reef, which are more exposed and have changed significantly over time, the Coral Triangle is thought to be a very stable and robust region, even though our current anxieties over climate change would indicate otherwise.
Do not let the apparent robust nature and diversity of the Coral Triangle make us complacent with protecting Her. The Coral Triangle and the wonderful diversity that locals and holidaymakers enjoy here in Bali is still under threat. Here at Bali Scuba, some of the very overt and obvious threats we sometimes see within the dive industry are some divers man-handling and ‘playing with’ our underwater friends. Riding turtles like a donkey and taking pieces of the hard-coral home as a door-stop is anything but good practice. Our education levels around this behaviour are advanced, but still we see this conduct from some of our guests.
These things should be easy wins to protect the incredible ocean life of the region. As a friend of mine likes to say, “Lookie-lookie, but no touchie-touchie!!!”
So, take away the overt nature of human behaviour affecting our global oceans – there are more insidious acts that are playing out, recorded as recently as February 2020.
One horrendous practice is that of dynamite fishing!!!
I can hear you thinking ‘what the hell???’ Yes, this practice is alive and sadly a fishing system that is popular due to the ease in which blasted schools of fish are collected. Efficient fishing for eager breadwinners for a family. However, the underwater explosions employed frequently destroy the underlying habitats and reefs supporting local fish populations, leaving a wasteland of dead coral.
Another tragic way of ‘fishing’ in the Coral Triangle is using cyanide fishing. This is a major threat to some regions of the Coral Triangle. This is a relatively new practice among the area’s fishermen. Cyanide fishing entails the distribution of liquid sodium cyanide into a reef where fish are hiding, stunning them and facilitating subsequent retrieval. Affected reefs are frequently physically damaged during the retrieval process as appropriate equipment is often unavailable, while the sodium cyanide employed into poisons living reefs as well.
Then there are more factors that affect the region. We all know about pollution, the use of single-use plastic, increases in urban sprawl and the consequent deforestation of trees and the hunting or species like turtles for their meat, shells, and eggs. We know about these things but there has to be a turning point for the global conscience where we put down our collective feet and say ‘ENOUGH’.
Areas like the Coral Triangle are robust only to a certain point when their demise starts to accelerate like that experienced in the Australian Great Barrier Reef. As divers, snorkelers, swimmers, surfers and lovers of our planet – it is time for us to think about how we can manage to clean up our own respective practices so that we maintain a beautiful Coral Triangle and global eco-system.
At Bali Scuba, we cannot claim to be perfect and we are perhaps late in our journey to eradicating single-use plastic and to maintain the good practice for the good of our fellow homo-sapiens and all other living organisms. But we are doing what we can to get to a level where we can profess to be living and breathing examples of ‘best-practice’.
There is a very common saying that is used around the younger generations plight to keep the environment clean. You may see social-media animations or quotes with words along the lines of “These kids are fighting so hard to clean the environment but I can’t get them to clean their bloody rooms”. We know these quotes are in jest but it offers a good metaphor for us all. Maybe we cannot as individuals save the environment, but we can certainly start with keeping our own spaces mindful of and protective over the greater good.”
Keep diving, and remember the wise words of advice from my Divemaster friend in regards to diving with aquatic life: “Lookie-lookie, but no touchie-touchie”