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.
From 15-17 May 2023, government officials, NGO representatives and researchers from countries in the Coral Triangle (CT), South-East Asia, converged in Manado, Indonesia, for a regional workshop aimed at advancing transboundary conservation efforts and the protection of threatened and migratory species. The workshop was jointly organised by the Ocean Governance (OG) Project and CTI-CFF (Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Security), which hosted the event at the Regional Secretariat’s premises. It provided the opportunity for stakeholders to share knowledge and discuss issues of common interest, with a focus on supporting the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework’s (GBF) ‘30×30’ goal – to protect and effectively manage 30 % of land and seas by 2030 – agreed by parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in December 2022.
The workshop was moderated by Charles Besancon from the OG project team. The welcoming speeches included an address by Dr. Mohd Kushairi bin Mohd Rajuddin, the Executive Director of CTI-CFF, and Mr. Ahmer Hakim, Co-Chair of the Working Group on MPAs and Chair of the Threatened Species Working Group. For the OG project, Puri Canals, Team Leader, and Veda Santiaji, South-East Asia expert, and WWF Coral Triangle Program also welcomed the participants. Puri Canals shared details and progress of the project and its cooperation with CTI-CFF, while Charles Besancon described the development of the GBF (and 30×30 target). Joe Appiott, Coordinator for Marine, Coastal, and Island Biodiversity for the CBD Secretariat, gave a remote presentation with further insights into the GBF’s Target 3 . Each country gave presentations on their progress in achieving Aichi Biodiversity Target 11 (from the predecessor to the new GBF) and their ambitions for the new Target 3. The presentations and case studies, delivered by representatives of Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines and Papua New Guinea, highlighted recent achievements in protected area coverage, especially compared to the results presented at the preceding Regional Workshop in Puerto Princesa, Philippines, which took place in November 2022, shortly before the new targets were agreed.
The second day of the workshop focused on ecological considerations for migratory corridors and transboundary MPAs, international cooperation for successful marine corridors, and the perspective of indigenous peoples and local communities. The agenda concluded with a division into groups to discuss capacity gaps, opportunities, flagship species, and challenges for transboundary and migratory species in specific regions.
Participants greatly appreciated the informal approach of the workshop, which left plenty of room for exchanges and questions. Vivid discussions about the many different types of protected areas highlighted that achieving the ambitious 30×30 target requires more knowledge and regulatory recognition for Other Effective Area-based Conservation Measures (OECMs) and Indigenous Peoples’ and Community Conserved Areas (ICCAs). Participant Pablo de los Reyes, Senior Ecosystems Management Specialist from the Department of Environment of the Philippines, expressed his appreciation for the workshop:
“The workshop is very timely for us in consideration that I was able to share our experiences on how to support and achieve the 30×30 target through other tools such as OECMs. Also, I gained knowledge from other CT countries on how they support the conservation of biodiversity. I am looking forward to have a bilateral, trinational, or multilateral agreement in the near future for the protection of marine migratory species within the CT Region.”
The final day of the workshop offered participants the opportunity to visit Lembeh Strait, a significant area for migratory species that is currently undergoing the process of being designated a marine protected area (MPA). The field trip gave the workshop participants the chance to pursue their discussions in a practical context and to share their ideas and insights regarding the conservation of Lembeh Strait with the local government.
The regional workshop showcased the commitment of CT countries to advancing transboundary conservation efforts and protecting threatened and migratory species. It fostered collaboration and connections among government officials, NGOs and researchers from the CT. Participants are hoping to bring the results and newly gained knowledge to the relevant CTI Working Groups in the future.
Marine mammal conservation is a pressing concern in the Western Indian Ocean, which is a hotspot for 34 marine mammal species, particularly the dugong, but also whales and dolphins. These species play vital ecological roles and contribute to the overall biodiversity of the region. Unfortunately, many of these species are classified as endangered or threatened, facing population declines due to overharvest, accidents with vessels, and fishing net entanglements.
The webinar, held on 13 April and hosted by MMT team member Anna Safryghin, aimed to introduce participants to the Marine Mammals Management Toolkit, which has been designed to enhance the management of marine mammal populations in marine protected areas around the world.
Arthur Tuda, WIOMSA Executive Secretary, described how the Western Indian Ocean is a hotspot for marine mammals but that it lacks mechanisms for stakeholders to work together to monitor their movements across the region. “Coming together here as practitioners in the Western Indian Ocean region, particularly wit WIOMPAN, is a very important opportunity for us to explore the use of this tool and see how we can work together to monitor marine mammals in all our 144 protected areas in the Western Indian Ocean region.”
Puri Canals, Ocean Governance project Technical Director and Twinning Coordinator, presented the project and its involvement in supporting marine mammal management initiatives through the Marine Mammals Twinning and Toolkit.
Dr. Nina Wambiji, of the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute and WIOMSA Country Coordinator, explained the critical role marine mammals play in maintaining the ecological balance of the Western Indian Ocean, as well as the positive impacts they have on the economy by creating tourism opportunities. Her expertise provided valuable insights into the significance of marine mammal conservation.
Anna Safryghin presented the Marine Mammals Management Toolkit, which provides practical guidance and strategies for MPAs to include marine mammal protection in their management plans. She invited the participants to review the factsheets in the toolkit, submit best practices to the MMT catalogue, and become members of the twinning’s Community of Practice.
Thomas Dallison, also from the Marine Mammal Twinning, gave a detailed demonstration of the Self-Assessment Tool and SAT-Lite, interactive features which allow users to assess their current management practices and identify areas for improvement.
Benjamin Haskell, of the USA’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), shared his experience of using the MMT toolkit in the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, an important whale-watching site in Massachusetts Bay, east of Boston. He described the toolkit as “an extremely useful resource”. “I highly recommend that you use the toolkit and also include the Self-Assessment tool in order to focus your management planning activities”, he told the webinar participants.
The webinar was recorded and is available to watch here.
Between 6 and 11 March 2023, the Marine Mammal Twinning of the Ocean Governance project’s component 2 attended the 3rd Humpback Whale World Congress, in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. The congress brought together stakeholders involved in humpback whale conservation and the theme of this year’s edition was “The Blue Economy for Sustainable Development”, reflecting on the importance of humpback whales in their migratory areas.
On the first day of the congress, the twinning presented the Marine Mammals Management Toolkit, an online resource designed to help marine protected area (MPA) managers and practitioners to better understand and effectively manage marine mammals through MPA management plans and policy frameworks. Made up of 4 components (factsheets, self-assessment tool (SAT), good practices and community of practice), the toolkit provides tools and resources to support networks of managers, marine mammal management and conservation. The presentation was attended by 80 scientists, conservationists and managers and served as an introduction to the series of training workshops that the twinning delivered during the congress.
The workshops, entitled “Towards the effective management of marine mammals and MPAs: the Marine Mammals Management Toolkit”, aimed to enhance understanding of the toolkit, with a specific focus on the use of the self-assessment tool and how it can be used in localised settings to support MPA management. The workshops were attended by MPA practitioners, stakeholders and users from Haiti, Colombia, Ecuador and the Dominican Republic, representing different stages of the MPA process, from initial scoping and MPA development, to monitoring and evaluation of MPAs and reporting on MPA progress and effectiveness.
The twinning also sponsored the participation of a master’s student, Dalma Sonez from the University of the Republic of Uruguay. Dalma supported the twinning in delivering the workshops and presented the results of her thesis, for which the toolkit was utilised to understand the level of protection afforded to marine mammals across 11 MPAs throughout the Americas.
The congress provided the opportunity to emphasise the toolkit’s adaptability and multi-faceted application for monitoring, evaluating, capacity building and communication. The twinning explored new avenues of collaboration, focused on welcoming new MPAs into its community of users and strengthening its resources, and will be looking to continue to provide valuable support to managers and users for the successful conservation of marine mammals.
To manage new MPAs in international waters, we will need to apply all the existing knowledge acquired from MPA management in jurisdictional waters
The landmark ‘high seas treaty’ agreed on 5 March represents a major advance in global ocean governance as it creates the framework needed to improve ocean biodiversity protection worldwide. The Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ) treaty creates a legal framework for the high seas, which until now have been largely lawless, and paves the way for the creation of vast marine protected areas (MPAs) outside national waters.
It is often observed that the biggest challenge with MPAs is not in creating them but in ensuring they are effectively managed. Our project is based on the knowledge that networks of MPA managers are ideally placed to share knowledge, tools and experience and thus improve effective management.
Another wise observation holds that the best way that humans can support ecological connectivity is to work between ourselves to this end. Ecological networks would be just fine if only humans could work together to protect and restore ecosystems. MPAs and MPA managers networks are also key in this regard.
Learn from our experience
Our experience – and that of our partners – has shown the benefits of human networking for the benefit of ocean biodiversity conservation. By supporting capacity-building of regional and national MPA manager networks, the EU Ocean Governance project has enabled our partners to boost management effectiveness. This will be instructive for the future implementation of high seas MPAs.
Our project was also designed in part to overcome barriers that exist between countries, whether these are political, economic or cultural. By creating a platform for states and territories in the Atlantic, in South-East Asia and beyond to meet at a technical level to address MPA management, the project builds learning and understanding at a level where it can have immediate impact on the ground. This experience may also be useful for countries as they work together to implement the BBNJ treaty.
A significant achievement
The treaty is a fine cause to celebrate, the result of over 10 years’ international diplomacy and 2 weeks of intense negotiations leading to the agreement at the UN headquarters in New York last Sunday. As the high seas cover 60% of the ocean by surface (and nearly half the planet), the treaty will make it much easier to achieve the commitment to protect 30% of the ocean by 2030, agreed in the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Agreement (2022). It will enter into force once it has been ratified by 60 states.
The contribution of the EU to the achievement should not be underestimated. The EU supported the adoption of the treaty through leading the ‘High Ambition Coalition’, and has pledged to support rapid ratification and help developing countries prepare for its implementation, pledging EUR 40 million as part of a Global Ocean Programme, and calling on other members of the High Ambition Coalition to do the same.