By Claire Ireland, Senior Environment Specialist, AusAID
On World Oceans Day, Australians can be proud of the crucial work being done with our tax dollars to protect the world’s oceans – and to support the people who depend so heavily on them. Our rainwater, drinking water, weather, climate, coastlines, much of our food, and even the oxygen in the air we breathe, are all ultimately provided and regulated by the sea. Their sustainable management is critical to all of us – and particularly our neighbours in the Pacific. Coastal and marine resources in the Pacific supply more than 80 per cent of food supplies and provide more than 70 per cent of income for poor families.
There is no doubt that the health of the world’s oceans is under threat. Habitat destruction and overfishing mean many of the world’s marine ecosystems are under severe stress. More than 85 per cent of global fisheries are either fully or over-exploited and 75 per cent of the world’s coral reefs are threatened by local and global pressures, including sea water acidification which prevents corals, shellfish and other organisms from growing – affecting food sources for larger fish.
Through our aid program, Australia is already working to address the degradation of the world’s oceans and the impact this has on the livelihoods of poor coastal communities. Through the Coral Triangle Initiative, Australia has the potential to improve the health and livelihoods of 240 million people in the region who rely on the biodiversity and ecosystems of the Coral Triangle. Covering only 1.6 per cent of the world’s oceans, the Coral Triangle is a large marine ecosystem in the Asia Pacific region. It contains 76 per cent of all known coral species, 37 per cent of all coral reef fish, the greatest extent of mangrove forests in the world, and spawning areas for tuna and other globally-significant commercial fish species.