ACB, UNDP launch marine conservation project in ASEAN

MANILA, Philippines (update) The ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in collaboration with the governments of Indonesia, the Philippines, and Thailand, kick start this year’s World Ocean Day celebration with the launching and inception of the GEF-funded joint marine conservation project– Effectively Managing Networks of Marine Protected Areas in Large Marine Ecosystems in the ASEAN Region (ASEAN ENMAPS)–on 6 June 2024. The project launch was organised to coincide with the first Project Steering Committee Meeting on 7 June 2024 to discuss the project implementation arrangements and work plan.

Every year on 8 June, the world celebrates Ocean Day to call for collective actions to stop overfishing and to protect the ocean. With the theme Catalyzing Action for Our Ocean & Climate, the World Ocean Day celebration highlights the importance of restoring coastal and ocean ecosystems by creating strongly protected areas and developing science-based solutions at the local, national, and international levels, in line with the goals of ASEAN ENMAPS. 

The ASEAN region is home to a third of the world’s coastal and marine habitats, providing vital ecosystem services, including breeding, nursing, and feeding grounds for fisheries. These services support local-to-global value chains and offer significant economic benefits. However, these rich ecosystems are under threat from unsustainable resource extraction, infrastructure development, pollution, policy gaps, and population pressures. Overfishing and other destructive fishing practices have been identified as the most widespread local threats to marine resources in Southeast Asia. According to ACB’s third ASEAN Biodiversity Outlook, if these unsustainable practices continue, there might be no viable fish stocks left by as early as 2048.

“We need a sea change in how we care for the oceans. Working with nature is one of our best options for ocean action. With only about eight percent of the ocean under some level of protection, countries must think expansively and cooperatively to conserve, manage and restore the ocean that sustains us. Developing and improving the management of networks of marine protected areas and marine corridors is a force multiplier for conservation – amplifying individual MPAs and allowing whole ecosystems to benefit from network effects,” said Gerd Trogemann, Manager, Regional Programme and Global Policy Network, UNDP Bangkok Regional Hub for Asia and the Pacific.

“As we mark World Oceans Day 2024 later this week, I am thrilled to launch the GEF funded ‘Effectively Managing Networks of Marine Protected Areas in Large Marine Ecosystems in the ASEAN Region’ project. This initiative underscores our commitment and advances the blue economy in Southeast Asia in line with the UNDP Ocean Promise. By enhancing marine conservation and sustainable management practices, we’re safeguarding biodiversity and supporting local livelihoods, aligning with Sustainable Development Goal 14 on Life Below Water, SDG 13 on Climate Action, and others,” he continued. 

The Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) or Biodiversity Plan, agreed at the 15th meeting of the Conference of Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, not only aims to protect at least 30 percent of coastal and marine areas by 2030, but also that these areas are effectively conserved and managed through ecologically representative, well-connected, and equitably governed systems of protected areas.

A multilateral marine conservation project

ASEAN ENMAPS is designed to respond to the Biodiversity Plan and to address challenges by facilitating transformative changes in the collaborative management of ecological networks of marine protected areas (MPAs), marine corridors, and other coastal and marine resources in large marine ecosystems (LMEs) in Indonesia, the Philippines, and Thailand. The geographic focus of ASEAN ENMAPS is in four LMEs: the Bay of Bengal, South China Sea, Sulu-Celebes Sea, and the Indonesian Seas. The project has 11 pilot sites in three countries: two in Indonesia, five in the Philippines, and four in Thailand. The project strategy has a strong upscaling focus, including engagement with ASEAN working groups and LME cooperative governance mechanisms, as well as leveraging complementary investments across the ASEAN region.

“The connectivity of the ASEAN seas presents an opportunity for enhancing marine and coastal conservation through the MPA networks and through programmes that address various threats to coastal and marine ecosystems,” said ACB Executive Director Theresa Mundita Lim. 

“Addressing these threats requires the participation of key stakeholders to better implement and operationalise environmental policies, regulation, and enforcement. This should be augmented with apt institutional and technical support, and robust cooperation. Moreover, decision-making for conservation and management will be more effective if decision makers are given accurate, reliable, and timely scientific information. The ASEAN ENMAPS aims to achieve these in the next five years,” she continued. 

“While its outcomes are broadly described at the moment and will be subject to our discussions, they are not seen just at the regional level but are envisioned to support coastal communities by addressing threat to coastal ecosystems and by providing opportunities to improve the lives of some of the poorest, if not the poorest, sectors in our society. This platform and project will enable us to learn from each other through adaptive management facilitated by monitoring and evaluation, communications, and knowledge management,” said Marcial C. Amaro, Jr., Assistant Secretary for International Affairs and concurrent OIC Director of the Biodiversity Management Bureau of the Philippine Department of Environment and Natural Resources (BMB-DENR). 

“Conservation is an ongoing endeavour, and learning to conserve more effectively is a gradual process. This project serves as an important catalyst, beginning with the establishment and enhancement of marine protected areas (MPAs) at the local level. From there, we aim to expand these efforts to more MPAs, develop networks of MPAs, and ultimately create interconnected networks of these MPA networks,” said Dr. Sheila G. Vergara, ASEAN ENMAPS Project Manager and Chief Technical Adviser. 

During the inaugural meeting of the ASEAN ENMAPS Project Steering Committee, the representatives of the beneficiary countries expressed their full support to the project, recognising the importance of the ecological connectivity of the ASEAN seas, and accordingly, the science-based approaches of the project. The Project Steering Committee is composed of five members: the ACB Governing Board, UNDP, and one representative each from the beneficiary ASEAN Member State, namely, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Thailand. 

ASEAN ENMAPS is implemented by UNDP via GEF funding and with ACB as the executing agency in collaboration with the governments of Indonesia, the Philippines, and Thailand. The project will be implemented for five years from 2024 to 2029 and will build on national initiatives to help develop and manage MPAs in the region, its networks, and associated marine corridors through integrated coastal management, marine spatial planning, and ecosystem-based management of fisheries.

ENMAPS Constituents
Viet Nam