Enhancing Ecological Connectivity, Ensuring Sustainability

How the protection and conservation of coastal and marine environments in the ASEAN region may be expanded to include areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJs)

The coastal and marine environments (CME) of the ASEAN Member States (AMS) do not exist in a vacuum. They are ecologically connected to each other and to areas beyond their national jurisdiction (ABNJ). The ASEAN CME is part of the Indo-Pacific oceans connectivity—the centre of the world’s marine biodiversity and hosts the most extensive and diverse coral reefs, mangrove forests, and seagrass beds (ACB, 2017). It is also an area of global ecological importance providing rich biodiversity resources and valuable ecosystem services and plays a critical role in maintaining and sustaining these provisions (Meñez, 2022). It is also a key contributor to food security, livelihoods, and economic development, supplying 21.9 per cent of the world’s total fisheries production in 2019, 39 per cent of which came from marine capture fisheries (SEAFDEC, 2022).

However, the productivity of the region is now approaching irreparable damage if left unaddressed as it faces human-induced threats such as overfishing, pollution, reef damage, and climate change. This is aggravated by the activities in the wider Indo-Pacific ABNJs, such as maritime shipping (oil spills), seabed mining (Meñez, 2022), poaching, and other illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing (ACB, 2017). The current status of CMEs of each AMS is declining at varying rates, and under these conditions, may not survive the impending impacts of climate change (Hilomen & Peñaflor, 2022). This situation endangers the biodiversity, livelihoods, and economies of the AMS. It is, without doubt, that the AMS needs to urgently take the necessary and concrete steps to address these challenges immediately.

One key strategy that can be immediately undertaken is to enhance the marine ecological connectivities of the AMS and the Indo-Pacific ABNJs by establishing a comprehensive system of area-based management tools (ABMTs), specifically, an extensive and well-managed network of marine protected areas (MPAs), taking into account Article 14 of the Further Refreshed Draft Text (CRP 13) of the International Legally-Binding Instrument on Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction (ILBIBBNJ) (United Nations, 2022).

The full policy brief may be accessed here: https://www.aseanbiodiversity.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/04/Policy-Brief_BBNJ.pdf