In August 2012, CI conducted its first ever Rapid Assessment Program (RAP) activity in Timor-Leste. The RAP focused on the marine environment along the north coast of the country, and led to the discovery of six potentially new species of reef fish and a potentially new species of coral. Scientists also documented evidence of Timor-Leste having consistently cooler water temperatures than in other neighboring areas by a range of two to three degrees Celsius. This temperature differential makes it exceedingly well-placed as a coral reef refuge for global climate change.
Among the recommendations made by the CI team are identifying the areas in greatest need of protection and improved management, and the observed threats which require immediate action, such as destructive fishing and sedimentation. Preliminary survey results were presented in a function hosted by former Timor-Leste President and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Dr. Jose Ramos-Horta, who stated, “Timor-Leste and its leaders recognize the importance of its natural capital, and the benefits that it can bring to its people. As a country, we are committed to working with partners towards such as Conservation International towards improved management of our natural resources.”
A full RAP report will be finalized in the coming months, to be compared with other Rapid Assessments done in Berau, East Kalimantan, Raja Ampat, Cenderawasih Bay, the FakFak/Kaimana Coastline, the Sangihe-Talaud region of North Sulawesi, Bali, Anambas and Brunei with a specific goal of quantitatively assessing ecological and taxonomic similarities in coral assemblages between Timor Leste and neighboring regions within the Coral Triangle. This analysis will inform important programmatic and strategy decisions for the nascent field office.
Conservation International has been a partner of the CTI since its inception in 2007. Carrying out activities in four of the six CT countries, as well as a number of activities across the region, CI works within the framework of the CTI to increase the capacity of national, regional and local governments and communities to manage their marine resources, promoting ocean health, improving fisheries management and increasing food security for the 360 million people of the Coral Triangle.