Following the success of two prior Learning Exchanges organised by the Ocean Governance project, our partners in the Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries, and Food Security (CTI-CFF) in Southeast Asia proposed to co-organise a third such event, designed for the six Coral Triangle countries (CT6): Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Timor Leste, and Solomon Islands. The event was held from 3rd to 6th July 2023 at the Coral Triangle Centre (CTC) in Bali, Indonesia, and focused on a common priority: how to preserve and restore ecologically crucial and economically significant coral reefs. Over 40 participants, including government officials, marine protected area (MPA) managers, scientists, NGOs and international organisations, attended the Learning Exchange.
Focus on coral reef restoration
The first day featured presentations on different aspects of coral reef restoration. Government representatives outlined national policy guidelines on the topic, while MPA managers discussed the practical implementation of the guidelines. Academics and scientists offered views on the guidelines and opportunities for improvement, and speakers involved in coral reef restoration projects shared best practices. Participants demonstrated their interest by engaging in thoughtful discussions and posing relevant questions, indicating the significance of the topic. Coral restoration proved to be a novel subject for discussion, as confusion regarding methods, financing, and local community involvement were raised. At the end of the day, participants gathered in country-specific groups to reflect on how the learning could apply in their national context, and presented the results of these discussions to the plenary.
Welcoming speech by CTI Executive Secretary Dr. Christovel Rotinsulu
Country group discussion (Malaysia)
Field trip to observe restoration in action
On the second day, a field trip to the marine protected area of Nusa Penida, located off the southeast coast of Bali, provided valuable hands-on experience. Participants observed a demonstration of the MARRS Reef Star restoration method, in which coral fragments are attached to metal structures, and had the opportunity to practise the technique themselves. Snorkelling activities allowed them to observe divers attaching the structures to the seafloor, and to see corals growing on older structures. The field trip also included a locally guided mangrove tour, provided by a community involvement project organised by the Coral Triangle Centre in Nusa Penida MPA. The day ended with a discussion about potential options to improve the MPA, from the perspective of different stakeholders (MPA managers, private tourism operators, media and communications, government, and the local community), guided by Veda Santiaji of WWF Indonesia and Southeast Asia expert for the EU Ocean Governance (OG) project. The discussion was also joined by Andrew C.F. Taylor, founder of a diving school and private restoration project in Nusa Penida.
Attaching coral fragments to MARRS reef stars
Group discussion about Nusa Penida MPA
Exploring the potential for an MPA network in the Coral Triangle region
On the third day, the focus shifted to the second objective of the Learning Exchange: initiating the creation of a network of MPA managers in the Coral Triangle region. The OG Project emphasised the importance of human networks to support ecological networks, and the need for ongoing collaboration beyond the project’s conclusion in December. OG Project Technical Team Lead Puri Canals presented the example of MedPAN, the network of MPA managers in the Mediterranean, to illustrate how a network works and can benefit its members. The day was devoted to interactive brainstorming, exploring the formation of a network, its potential members, relationship to CTI-CFF, priority topics, and more, laying the foundation for future regional discussions. The results were presented to the plenary and will be taken to the MPA Working Group of the CTI-CFF, which has shown great commitment to promoting the creation of the network.
Brainstorming activity about an MPA manager network in the Coral Triangle
The “World Café Method” was used to collect ideas
As the 3rd Learning Exchange concluded, participants left with enhanced knowledge, strengthened connections and a shared commitment to the conservation of coral reefs. The event underscored the importance of collaboration and knowledge exchange, fostering optimism for sustainable future cooperation and the formation of a strong network. A huge thanks goes out to the Coral Triangle Centre for hosting us at their beautiful premises and for sharing their expertise with the participants; to the Coral Triangle Initiative for their excellent collaboration; and to all the participants for their motivation and valuable contribution throughout the event.
The EU Ocean Governance project has been busy in recent months supporting ecosystem restoration in collaboration with local communities and private sector partners in the Sulu Sulawesi Seascape, a Southeast Asia region of the Coral Triangle. As part of the consortium, WWF has successfully engaged with local conservation, business and community partners at the selected restoration sites in Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines. These have seen the deployment of artificial reef structures to support the growth of coral reefs, mangrove planting activities to reforest coastal areas, and the organisation of training workshops and information centres to enable learning and community engagement.
The Derawan Islands Marine Protected Area (MPA) in East Kalimantan Province is home to threatened migratory species like green turtles and whale sharks. To support sustainable fisheries, tourism, and coral reef restoration within the MPA, 27 large rock piles have been assembled underwater using locally collected limestone as well as 75 reef stars (hexagonal sand coated steel structures to which coral fragments are affixed). The reefs are now being monitored to assess the health and development of the reef. Officials from the European Union Delegation to Indonesia visited the site in March 2023, and were able to see first-hand the positive outcomes of training sessions and workshops conducted as part of the restoration efforts. These covered reef construction and monitoring, bycatch mitigation, interaction with whale sharks and tourism development. The collaborative approach has engaged a broad range of stakeholders in the management of the MPA, and should contribute to its long-term sustainability.
At the restoration site in Tun Mustapha Park, Malaysia, the EU Ocean Governance project has facilitated an impressive team effort involving a number of stakeholders. Over the past three months, 400 reef stars have been deployed with the support of the local community, Archangel Borneo Pitas Floating Coral Bar (a local tourism operator), Sabah University, the Banggi Coral Conservation Society (a local NGO) and the MPA authority, Sabah Parks. By actively involving local community members and organisations, the restoration project not only contributes to the recovery of the marine ecosystem but should also enhance the livelihoods of those directly involved.
In October 2022, a mini-workshop was held on Manukan Island, part of Sabah Parks’ Tunku Abdul Rahman Park, to enable cross-learning between MPA managers and stakeholders from Derawan Island Marine Protected Area (MPA) in Indonesia and Tun Mustapha Park MPA in Malaysia. The event took place just after the 2nd EU Ocean Governance Learning Exchange event for marine conservationists from Southeast Asia and the Atlantic basin, in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia. The participants shared overviews of each MPA – including their management plans and challenges – and their experiences using restoration methods such as the rock pile method and the MARRS (Mars Assisted Reef Restoration System) method, which used reef stars. In June 2023, the EU Ambassador to Malaysia visited Semporna, Sabah, a site identified in a list of high-priority sites for restoration where an extension of the Ocean Governance project’s restoration activity is now taking place, thanks to support from WWF-Singapore with Epson and other corporate partners.
In the Philippines, where activities focus on mangrove restoration in Southern Palawan, members of the Kutunggan Puring Association transplanted 1,250 mangrove seedlings on 12 June 2023 in Sitio Pulaw Pulaw, Barangay Puring. This was the second direct planting activity carried out by the community in one of the degraded areas identified as in need of restoration.
In addition, an Environmental Communications and Writeshop was hosted in Balabac and Bataraza. Based on outputs from the writeshop, WWF is preparing two children’s books: a colouring book on mangroves and waste management, and an activity book on mangrove conservation which can be used in classroom lessons.
WWF also organised a train-the-trainers workshop for community facilitators, to prepare local partners to take on facilitating roles in subsequent activities. At a recent mangrove training in Insalawan, Balabac, two trained participants facilitated sessions on mangrove species identification and site selection.
In Barangay Buliluyan, Learning Hub partners from government departments and the private sector brainstormed on practical approaches to managing the increasing waste at the Buliluyan seaport and Bataraza Town Center. An initial step is to introduce social enterprise by training waste pickers under Project Zacchaeus’ Eco Kolek programme, whose approach supports professionalising waste picking services and provides integrated recovery management and services.
In Barangay Puring, members of the newly created Kútúnggan Puring Association took part in training in self-empowerment, basic accounting and bookkeeping to build institutional capacities for community-led mangrove restoration and sustainable livelihood initiatives.
Representatives of the local government and the community in Bataraza and Balabac attended the Ocean Governance’s Mangrove Learning Exchange Trip in Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park in March 2023. The trip provided an insight into established community-based ecotourism initiatives centred on the mangrove ecosystem. For World Mangrove Day on 26 July, the WWF team is preparing a mangrove tour for guests which will be the first tour led by the community.
Our project activities in Southeast Asia are contributing to the preservation of marine ecosystems and the well-being of the surrounding communities, and our ongoing commitment to collaborative management should ensure the long-term sustainability of these valuable natural resources.
MPA managers from the US states of New Jersey, Delaware, Virginia, and Maryland took part in our Resilience partnership workshop in April, the second ‘training of trainers’ events on the Resilience Self-Assessment tool (R-SAT). The tool is designed to help managers of marine protected areas boost their preparedness and capacity to face rapid changes, such as sea level rise, growth of tourism and urban development.
The MPA managers, all from the Mid-Atlantic Group of the USA’s National Estuarine Research Reserves (NERR) network, attended the event on 18-20 April in Galloway, New Jersey. They learned about the project and how to conduct collective and individual assessments of their own MPA’s resilience, discussed results and gave feedback. The Jacques Cousteau NERR in New Jersey is a founding member of the Resilience twinning partnership and has provided key input during the tool’s development stages, drawn from its experience of the damage caused by Hurricane (‘Superstorm’) Sandy in 2012.
Jean-Jacques Goussard and Lilian Wetzel introduced the R-SAT platform, which was developed by the twinning, and described its further applications that are currently under development or consideration, such as for MPAs in the process of being considered or designated, OECMs (Other Effective Conservation area-based Measures) and areas undergoing an integrated coastal zone management (ICZM) process.
Understanding resilience and how to assess it
The workshop covered the meaning and impact of ‘rapid changes’, resulting from climate change or tourism, and examples of good practice responses by MPAs that are partners of the twinning, in Brazil, Gabon, Mexico, Portugal, Senegal and the USA. It also addressed theoretical issues such as risk, hazard, assets, vulnerability and risk management.
Participants then followed a demo of the self-assessment tool, with an explanation of the five families of criteria: 1) Anticipation, awareness, responsiveness; 2) Territorial integration of MPA; 3) Social/cultural integration; 4) Political/institutional resilience; and 5) Knowledge management and restoration know-how.
Using the self-assessment tool
The participants heard about the training of trainers experience in Senegal, looked at examples of R-SAT results graphs and worked in small groups to answer the tool’s questions relative to their MPA. Their answers were used as input to the tool to produce graphs, which were then compared and discussed by the group.
Participants looked at a selection of results graphs from different MPAs, heard about planned developments of the platform and how the tool has been recognised and integrated in a tool developed by the USA’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration with IUCN, the Climate Change Resilience and Adaptation Planning Tool (CC RAPT).
The group then looked at assessment questions with their colleagues, then the coaches, and compared their findings as a group to gain insights and observe similarities and differences.
Incorporating results into MPA roadmap
The next day, participants heard from Mathieu Ducrocq in Senegal about how to use the graph results in an MPA’s roadmap. He underlined the need for mapping and for informing and engaging stakeholders in workshops to increase trust and communication.
The group learned about the twinning partnership’s ‘community of practice’ which has been set up for R-SAT users to share and exchange their experiences.
The feedback from the workshop was broadly very positive. Most participating managers were able to identify other managers or areas that they could coach in using R-SAT. The workshop had broadened their view of MPAs in the wider picture, was inspirational regarding ocean governance, and showed managers where they could improve. It was found to be useful for structuring conversation with partners; illustrating international MPA management models; allowed to identify where efforts should be concentrated; and to gain an understanding of wider Coastal and Marine Protected Areas.