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The Coral, Solomon and Bismarck Seas region
Huber, M.E.; Naines, G.B.K. (2000). The Coral, Solomon and Bismarck Seas region, in: Sheppard, C.R.C. (Ed.) Seas at the millennium: an environmental evaluation: 2. Regional chapters: The Indian Ocean to The Pacific. pp. 425-446
In: Sheppard, C.R.C. (Ed.) (2000). Seas at the millennium: an environmental evaluation: 2. Regional chapters: The Indian Ocean to The Pacific. Pergamon: Amsterdam. ISBN 0-08-043207-7. XXI, 920 pp., more

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Document type: Review


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  • Huber, M.E.
  • Naines, G.B.K.

    The Coral, Solomon, and Bismarck Seas lie in the western equatorial Pacific, bounded by Australia, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea (PNG). PNG and the Solomon Islands are the coastal countries discussed. North-south migration of the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone brings about alternating Trade Wind and monsoon conditions. The South Equatorial Current (SEC) drives the major ocean circulation. The region's major land mass is mainland Papua New Guinea (PNG). All remaining land is grouped into archipelagos. Major coastal ecosystems are coral reefs, mangroves, seagrass beds, soft estuary and lagoon bottoms, inland saltwater lagoons, and freshwater coastal wetlands. The biodiversity of these coastal ecosystems is of global significance in extent and diversity and, overall, their condition is generally good. Little of the baseline knowledge needed to monitor trends and to assess environmental change is available, and the level of research and survey is very low. Though the open seas of the region are characterised by low primary production, it is likely that upwelling and turbulent mixing around reefs and islands results in localised areas of high primary productivity. The region's large pelagic tuna resource is being exploited by both PNG and the Solomon Islands. Both receive support in this from the South Pacific Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA). The majority of the population of the countries of the region (about 1.4 million) lives along the 22,400 kIn coastline. Port Moresby is the largest urban population (250,000). Urban centres are characterised by inadequate provision for treatment and disposal of human and industrial wastes, localised overfishing, coastline disturbances arising from land sediment discharge, and from poorly designed and positioned engineering structures, and chronic low-level pollution. Outside urban areas the level of material development is very low and most people live a mixed subsistence and artisanallifestyle. While traditional agriculture is the main source of food and livelihood there is a high degree of dependence upon coastal fisheries for both subsistence and income. Few coastal villagers are solely farmer or fisher. Local fisheries are diverse and, apart from the wide range of finfish and invertebrates taken for food, there is an export trade in sea cucumbers (to produce beche-de-mer), molluscs (for mother- of-pearl), and a few high-value food species. Not only are these stocks inherently difficult to manage but coastal fisheries management capacity in the countries of the region is very low. Over-exploitation is common. Recently, a trade in live reef food fish for export has emerged. Characterised by a quick depletion of stocks, and the use of toxic substances for stunning fish, it is considered to be a significant threat to the sustainability of coastal marine resources and to coral reef ecosystems. Land-slips and their sediment plumes in nearby coastal waters are a natural feature of the dynamic landscape. Where land is disturbed by logging and agriculture, additional sediment stress on aquatic ecosystems is superimposed on this natural background stress. poor logging practices are effecting major changes in the nature of the land and the eco- systems from which freshwater enters the sea. Sediment loads are increased, stressing coral reefs and seagrass beds. This is accompanied by increases in the amount of freshwater runoff, adding further stress. Domestic sewage is the most important source of point-source pollution, not only in urban areas but sometimes in rural lagoons. The low level of industrial development has precluded widespread industrial pollution but localised pollution from mines, breweries, food and agri- cultural processing plants, and probably other industries has occurred. There is no systematic water quality, biological, or public health monitoring of coastal waters. Though both countries in the region have a legislative and administrative base for environ- mental and resource management, effective implementation is compromised by a lack of political will and weak-and declining-capacity in the management agencies. Increased attention is being paid to the promotion and support of community-based approaches that incorporate elements of traditional land and sea tenure systems and management practices.

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