Today is Coral Triangle Day, an extension of World Oceans Day that I looked at a few years ago on this blog https://www.bookofdaystales.com/world-oceans-day/ and has much the same aims except focused on a small, but critical segment of the world’s oceans. The Coral Triangle is a geographical term so named because it refers to a roughly triangular area of the tropical marine waters of Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Solomon Islands and Timor-Leste that contain at least 500 species of reef-building corals in each ecoregion. This region encompasses portions of two biogeographic regions: the Indonesian-Philippines Region, and the Far Southwestern Pacific Region. The Coral Triangle is recognized as the global center of marine biodiversity and a global priority for conservation. It is also called the “Amazon of the seas” and covers 5.7 million square kilometers (2,200,000 sq mi) of ocean waters. Its biological resources sustain the lives of over 120 million people. According to the Coral Triangle Knowledge Network, about $3 billion in fisheries exports and another $3 billion in coastal tourism revenues are derived as annual foreign exchange income in the region. The WWF considers the region a top priority for marine conservation, and the organization is addressing the threats it faces through its Coral Triangle Program, launched in 2007. Coral Triangle Day was launched in 2012 and is growing in popularity yearly. My aim today is to expand awareness of the region, and the day, beyond Asia.
First and foremost let me talk about the coral bleaching that is currently plaguing Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Headlines saying that the reef is dead are slightly overstating the case, but it is very serious. When oceans warm, corals expel algae as a last ditch effort to save themselves – turning them white. But this is suicidal because the algae are necessary to the corals for the synthesis of nutrients. THE PROCESS CAN BE REVERSED, but it does not just magically happen. It requires human intervention on a massive scale. Climate change deniers point to spontaneous regeneration in certain zones as “evidence” that science is misguided. This is short-sighted and just plain wrong. Coral bleaching can be reversed if caught in time, but serious global efforts at greenhouse gas reduction are required in the long run. The point is that without healthy oceans we can’t sustain a healthy planet. The earth is not land with some water around it, as you might believe, especially if you live inland; the earth is made up of water/oceans dotted with dry land. It doesn’t look blue from space because the land is blue.
While only covering 1.6% of the planet’s oceanic area, the region has 76% of all known coral species in the world. As a habitat for 52% of Indo-Pacific reef fishes and 37% of the world’s reef fishes, it encompasses the highest diversity of coral reef fishes in the world. More than 3,000 species of fish live in the Coral Triangle, including the largest fish – the whale shark, and the coelacanth (once thought to have become extinct 66 million years ago and now critically endangered). The Coral Triangle is the epicenter for the biodiversity of not only corals and fish, but many other marine organisms as well. It also provides habitat to six out of the world’s seven marine turtle species.
The Coral Triangle also has the greatest extent of mangrove forests in the world. The large area and extraordinary range of habitats and environmental conditions have played a major role in maintaining the staggering biodiversity of the Coral Triangle. The Coral Triangle sits at a crossroads of rapidly expanding populations, economic growth and international trade. The biodiversity and natural productivity of the Coral Triangle are under threat from poor marine management (primarily from the coastal development, and overfishing and destructive fishing), lack of political will, poverty, high market demand for threatened species, and local disregard for rare and threatened species, and climate change (warming, acidifying and rising seas). Coral reefs have experienced mass bleaching, which threaten to degrade important ecosystems. An estimated 120 million people live within the Coral Triangle, of which approximately 2.25 million are fishers who depend on healthy seas to make a living. These threats are putting at risk livelihoods, economies and future market supplies for species such as tuna.
Since marine resources are a principal source of income for the population, the downstream effects of losing these critical coastal ecosystems are enormous. The Coral Triangle is the subject of high-level conservation efforts by the region’s governments, nature conservation organizations such as World Wide Fund for Nature, The Nature Conservancy and Conservation International, and donor agencies such as the Asian Development Bank, the Global Environment Facility and USAID. On August 2007, Indonesia’s President Yudhoyono proposed a multilateral partnership to “safeguard the region’s marine and coastal biological resources” with five other countries geographically located in the Coral Triangle (Malaysia, Timor-Leste, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, and the Philippines). The multilateral partnership then named as Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Security (CTI-CFF). Priorities of CTI-CFF are:
Priority seascapes designated and effectively managed
Ecosystem Approach to Management of Fisheries (EAFM) and other marine resources fully applied
Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) established and effectively managed
Climate change adaptation goals set and achieved
Improvement of threatened species’ status
Obviously promoting sustainable marine products for the table is paramount. For World Oceans Day I suggested eating more seaweed. That idea is equally applicable for today as well. The Coral Triangle is a major spawning ground for tuna and stocks are being fished quicker than they can replace themselves. So . . . hands off the tuna sashimi and sushi. No turtle soup either. On the other, anchovies are a good choice, but their availability in most of the world as a primary ingredient in dishes is limited. Fortunately I live in Italy where fresh anchovies (alici) are common. I can get them in any supermarket year round.
I’m also a very big fan of anchovy toast at tea time, and always have anchovy paste on hand. There’s something so incredibly more-ish about anchovy toast and a cuppa at 4 o’clock. Very old fashioned. My college at Oxford served anchovy toast at tea time in the Michaelmas and Hilary terms.
The most common method of processing and preserving anchovies is to gut and salt them in brine, allow them to mature, and then pack them in oil or salt. This results in the characteristic strong flavor. Spanish boquerones are anchovies pickled in vinegar. They are milder than salted anchovies and the flesh retains a white color. In Roman times, anchovies were the base for the fermented fish sauce garum. Anchovies were also eaten raw as an aphrodisiac .Because of their strong flavor, salted anchovies are also an ingredient in several sauces and condiments, including Worcestershire sauce, Caesar salad dressing, remoulade, Gentleman’s Relish, many fish sauces, and in some versions of Café de Paris butter.
There’s your marching orders for today – EAT ANCHOVIES. Here’s some ideas: