Distinguished Ministers, delegates, development partners, and friends – selamat pagi! Good morning!
It is my pleasure to welcome all of you gathered here today on the beautiful island of Bali to map the future of the Coral Triangle as a sustainable marine tourism destination. This is an endeavor that the United States Government is honored to support.
Coral Triangle: Sustainable Tourism Destination Significance
I don’t have to tell this distinguished group the importance of the Coral Triangle. This region has 25,000 islands and is home to many cultures with over 2,000 languages spoken among its inhabitants.
It is the breeding ground and home to over 37% (2,000) of the world’s reef fish and 76% (605) of the world’s coral species. And it is these treasures that we would like to conserve and sustain.
These fish and reefs help attract a travel and tourism industry that has a tremendous economic impact in the six countries of the Coral Triangle. Last year, it contributed $58 billion to the region’s gross domestic product and provided direct employment to more than 5 million people.
Visitors like me who have been lucky enough to tavel around the six countries of the Coral Triangle – Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Solomon Islands and Timor-Leste – know first hand that the region offers countless other opportunities to inspire visitors, both on land and underwater.
And that’s where all of us come in. There is a critical relationship between the tourism industry and the sustainability of unique natural resources such as those found in the Coral Triangle. And because of this, international development organizations such as USAID, the World Trade Organization and the Convention on Biological Diversity, have emphasized the importance of responsible travelers’ stewardship over these resources – whether on land or under water.
To protect these precious resources requires strong leadership, engagement with multiple stakeholders, and clear guidelines and standards for their sustainable use. Above all, it requires a long term strategy and vision.
The legacy of the U.S. National Park Services (NPS)
America too is blessed with extraordinary natural treasures from the canyons of Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon to the glaciers and tundra of Alaska, teeming with caribou, moose, bear and countless other species.
We are fortunate our forefathers had the foresight to begin setting aside these treasures for future generations to enjoy. The US Congress established Yellowstone National Park in 1872 “for the benefit and enjoyment of the people” and placed it “under exclusive control of the Secretary of the Interior.” The founding of Yellowstone National Park began a worldwide national park movement.
In 1916 President Woodrow Wilson signed the act creating the National Park Service, a new federal bureau to protect the 35 national parks and monuments that then existed. The park system has continued to expand ever since.
A hundred years later, we are still benefitting from this long term vision. The system as a whole is considered to be a national treasure and covers approximately 340,000 square kilometers of land, an area the size of Finland.
This remarkable legacy serves as a model for those of us today who are trying to conserve the significant and marine wildlife in the Coral Triangle region.
I acknowledge the visionaries and leaders who have paved the way for sustainable marine tourism in the region and I hope more will follow in your footsteps.
Recognition and Closing
In closing, I want to congratulate the Indonesian Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries, the Ministry of Tourism, the Coral Triangle Initiative, USAID, and the U.S. Department of the Interior for the success of this Forum.
The U.S. Government will continue to stand behind the Coral Triangle Initiative as it continues to forge various pathways to protect and sustain the world’s epicenter of marine biodiversity.
It is my hope that by planting the seeds in developing the Coral Triangle as a sustainable marine tourism destination, future generations 100 years from now will be able to enjoy the bounty of this magnificent coastal and marine environment.
Thank you all. It’s been an honor to be part of this vital initiative and I look forward to hearing the results of your collaborations and suggestions.