Over 80 percent of the reefs in this region are at risk, and over half (56 percent) are at high risk. Most of the coral reefs of the Philippines, Sabah, Eastern Sumatra, Java, and Sulawesi were assessed at high potential threat from disturbance. More than 70 percent of the region's people live within the coastal zone, putting heavy pressure on nearby marine resources.[1]

Overfishing, destructive fishing practices, sedimentation, and pollution associated with coastal development are the biggest threats.[2]

Southeast Asia contains one-quarter of the world's mapped reefs. Indonesia and the Philippines account for a major portion of these habitats. Reefs in both countries are noted for extraordinarily high levels of diversity, each containing at least 2,500 species of fish.[3]

Studies suggest that only 30 percent of reefs off both countries are in good or excellent condition (as measured by live coral cover).[4][5]

Our results, which include threats from overfishing, indicate that virtually all of Philippine reefs, and 83 percent of Indonesia's reefs, are at risk. Because of the reef area they contain, coastal zone policy and management decisions made by these two countries will have a major impact on the global heritage of coral reef diversity for future generations.

During review of these final threat classifications, coral reef experts provided the following observation: The Spratly Islands have been classified predominantly as under low threat. This is probably an underestimate due to blast fishing, fishing with poisons, and shark fishing in that area.


  1. Peter Weber, "Reviving Coral Reefs" in State of the World 1993 (Washington, DC: WorldWatch Institute, 1993), 48.

  2. Clive Wilkinson, personal communication, Reporting on results from the 1996 International Coral Reef Symposium.

  3. Ewald Lieske and Robert Myers, Coral Reef Fishes: Caribbean, Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean Including the Red Sea (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1996), 7.

  4. Herman Cesar, Economic Analysis of Indonesian Coral Reefs (Washington, DC: World Bank, 1996), 4, 16.

  5. Gomez, Alino, Yap, and Licuanan, "A Review of the status of Philippine Reefs," Marine Pollution Bulletin 29, nos. 1-3 (1994), 65-66.