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6 nations agree coral-reef pact

A COMMITMENT by six Asia-Pacific nations to protect a huge swath of ecologically rich coral reef is an important step, although the pact is non-binding and key details still need to thrashed out, conservationists said yesterday.

Indonesia, Malaysia, East Timor, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands border a stretch of reef known as the Coral Triangle, which contains 76 percent of all known coral species and is a vital tuna spawning ground.

The pact signed during the World Ocean Conference in Manado, Sulawesi, last week includes a commitment to crack down on illegal fishing and pollution, and to enforcing new tuna fishing regulations to protect spawning grounds.

"It's non-binding and it's not a treaty but as a commitment to each other it's quite important," said James Leape, international director general of conservation group WWF.

"The most important thing is the political platform that the declaration provides and some were quite explicit about creating new marine protected areas."

Under a draft of the agreement, countries could move to develop and bring in new sustainable fishing laws over the next three years.

The pact also indicates commercial tuna fishing could be curtailed in spawning sites.

In exchange, countries could be compensated by nations that buy a lot of tuna or by being allowed to do more fishing in other parts of the Coral Triangle.

An official from the Asian Development Bank told participants at the Manado summit that more than US$350 million had been pledged toward the project.

The bank would help countries access funds through the Global Environment Facility, an international body that provides grants for environmental projects, the official said.


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