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The Indo-Pacific, sometimes known as the Indo-West Pacific, is a biogeographic region of the Earth's seas, comprising the tropical waters of the Indian Ocean, the western and central Pacific Ocean, and the seas connecting the two in the general area of Indonesia. It does not include the temperate and polar regions of the Indian and Pacific oceans, and the Tropical Eastern Pacific, along the Pacific coast of the Americas, is also a distinct marine realm.
The term is especially useful in marine biology, ichthyology, and similar fields, since many marine habitats are continuously connected from Madagascar to Japan and Oceania, and a number of species occur over that range, but are not found in the Atlantic Ocean.
The region has an exceptionally high species richness, including 3000 species of fish, compared with around 1200 in the next richest marine region, the Western Atlantic, and around 500 species of reef building corals, compared with about 50 species in the Western Atlantic.1
The Western Indo-Pacific covers the western and central portion of the Indian Ocean, including the Africa's east coast, the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Persian Gulf, Arabian Sea, Bay of Bengal, and Andaman Sea, as well as the coastal waters surrounding Madagascar, the Seychelles, Comoros, Mascarene Islands, Maldives, and Chagos Archipelago.
The Central Indo-Pacific includes the numerous seas and straits connecting the Indian and Pacific oceans, including the seas surrounding the Indonesian archipelago (with the exception of Sumatra's northwest coast, which is part of the Western Indo-Pacific), the South China Sea, the Philippine Sea, the north coast of Australia, and the seas surrounding New Guinea, western and central Micronesia, New Caledonia, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji, and Tonga. The Central Indo-Pacific, due in part to its central location at the meeting of two oceans, has the greatest diversity of corals and mangroves.
The Eastern Indo-Pacific surrounds the mostly volcanic islands of the central Pacific Ocean, extending from the Marshall Islands through central and southeastern Polynesia to Easter Island and Hawaii.
Since 2011, the term ‘Indo-Pacific’ is being used increasingly in the global strategic/ geo-political discourse. The term was first used in an article carried in the January 2007 issue of the Strategic Analysis journal (Routledge/ IDSA) titled 'Security of Sea Lines: Prospects for India-Japan Cooperation'. In the article, the term ‘Indo-Pacific’ refers to the maritime space comprising the Indian Ocean and the western Pacific. Littoral to it are the states of Asia (including West Asia/ Middle East) and eastern Africa.2 Since then, the term has been used frequently by strategic analysts and high-level government/ military leadership in Australia, India, Japan and the US to denote the said region. However, a formal/ official articulation of the term first appeared in Australia’s Defence White Paper, 2013.3
- Helfman G., Collette B., & Facey D.: The Diversity of Fishes, Blackwell Publishing, pp 274-276, 1997, ISBN 0-86542-256-7
- Khurana, Gurpreet S. , (2007) 'Security of Sea Lines: Prospects for India-Japan Cooperation', Strategic Analysis, Volume 31, No. 1, p.139 - 153
- ‘Defending Australia and its National Interests’, Defence White Paper 2013, Department of Defence, Australian Government, May 13