Draft of 23 June 2000
East Asian Seas
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The East Asian Seas region differs from the other RSPs by not having a Convention, but a regional Action Plan was adopted in 1981. The Action Plan has one related protocol, the Protocol for the Prevention of Pollution by Dumping. The UNEP Secretariat, the Regional Coordinating Unit for the East Asian Seas Action Plan (UNEP EAS/RCU) manages both the Action Plan and the Protocol.
South East Asia contains one quarter of the world's mapped reefs. Over 80 percent of the reefs in this region are at risk and over half (56 percent) are at high risk. More than 70 percent of the region's people live within the coastal zone, putting heavy pressure on nearby marine resources. Overfishing, destructive fishing practices, sedimentation and pollution associated with coastal development are the biggest threats.
Indonesia and the Philippines account for a major portion of these habitats. Reefs in both these countries are noted for extraordinarily high levels of biodiversity. Studies suggest that only 30 percent of the reefs of both countries are in good or excellent condition. Coastal zone policy and management decisions made by these two countries will have a major impact on the global heritage of coral reef diversity for future generations.
The East Asian Seas ICRI Workshop in Denpasar, Bali (March, 1996) identified the main threats to coral reefs and associated ecosystems in the region. However, the threats are not ranked in order of significance:
- Unsustainable exploitation of coral reef
resources, including overfishing and unsustainable tourism
Recommended actions from the meeting were:
- To encourage all countries to have policies
and legislation for conservation and sustainable use of coral reefs,
A recent workshop on coral reef monitoring and data acquisition (EAS/RCU in Phuket, 9-11 May, 2000) recommended developing a regional database network and support for monitoring of coral reefs to determine their health, be strengthened in the region. The workshop identified all the issues still relevant after four years. Four outstanding actions from the 1996 workshop are:
1. To stop cyanide fishing in the East
Asian Seas Region
The generally poor knowledge of coral reef location and the status of their health should be improved before adequate management can occur. More precisely, mapping and strategic monitoring are the key priorities to adequately manage coral reef ecosystems. Already a number of marine parks have been established or planned in the region but many of these are not managed adequately to sustain the resource and legislation is either poor or not enforced. The following pilot sites (below) are suggested in the region to cover most of the recommended actions from the 1996 workshop and also to be suitable for demonstration to other coral reefs in the region. The suggested projects listed below are all part of on-going or proposed projects so that the ICRAN funding will be enhancing or helping to coordinate them.
Monitoring for management in the Ream National Park. The Ream National Park at Sihanoukville was declared a national park and a management headquarters and infrastructure have been established. This would be a very good demonstration site for training and capacity building for a self-sustained monitoring system. The park includes coral reefs, seagrass beds and mangrove. A fishing village exists within park boundaries and some encroachment by aquaculture ponds. The exact position, size and health of the coral reefs in Ream National Park is not known. This demonstration site could be used to map coral reefs, teach the rangers to dive or snorkel and conduct coral reef monitoring. However, the basic equipment for field work is lacking. The UNDP office in Phnom Phen is well equipped to carry out mapping if the field work can be done. The ground truth of mapping would give the local rangers the capacity to then continue with these skills and monitor coral reefs in the park. Policy and legislation for coral reef management is also lacking; however, even if in place, laws cannot currently be enforced. In past cases, a main problem in Cambodia has been that once funding has been used a project loses impetus. Therefore, developing local sustainable financing is a key challenge for this country.
Monitoring the results of coral reef degradation, and raising awareness on how to care for coral reefs. Coastal erosion is removing about 10 meters of shoreline per year on Hainan Island after coral reefs were destroyed. The environmental impact of losing coral reefs can be a convincing tool for national authorities and coastal managers in demonstrating the devestation that occurs once reefs are lost. On Hainan Island the provincial government has started a tourism industry based around coral reefs and diving. Legislation and enforcement are in place and there is a great number of people taking part in observing coral reefs, either from glass bottomed boats or by diving. The EAS/RCU has noted that very little is known within this area about the care that divers should take while underwater. This demonstration site is therefore aimed at educating dive-store operators through teaching diving practices that do not damage corals and at the same time educating the public on the advantages of caring for coral reefs. The visiting public will also require educational materials concerning the basic biology and ecology of coral reefs so that they can understand the basis of local rules and legislation.
Demonstrating community participation in caring for coral reefs. In collaboration with the WWF Indonesia Wallacea Bioregional Program this demonstration site would be in Bali Indonesia, where there is already a network of coral reef monitoring. Currently the data from the 33 sites at 8 locations is sent to the WWF Indonesia Office where it is processed and returned to the data providers. This proposal would place data from the current monitoring network into a regional database, and ReefBase as metadata-- information about the description and quality of monitoring data collected. This is an important tool in organizing and properly sharing information within the Region. If the results are successful, this demonstration would be expanded to other sites in the region.
Effects and needs of management efforts. Surveys of coral reefs of Sabah in the South China Sea and in the Sulu-Suluwasi Sea were carried out between the 1980s and present. There are a number of marine parks in the region successfully run and showing signs of improved fish numbers and coral health. In contrast with the reefs of Cambodia, and the lack of strong government policy in that country, Malaysia has a better management system in place and many more tourists. It is proposed that ICRAN support further monitoring of coral reefs in Sabah through the University Malaysia Sabah and the University Malaysia Sarawak. This monitoring is at a higher level than the dive-store operators monitoring at Phuket and should be addressed at determining the extent of and recovery from blast fishing and management needs. Support should be given to enhancing a method, already in an experimental phase, to detect blast fishing as it occurs.
Comparing different management methods. Siliman University Marine Laboratory has been involved with Reef Check monitoring for two years at Apo Island, Negros Oriental, a prime tourist destination. Reef Check data are the primary source of data used to manage the reefs, including limiting the number of divers per day on the reefs. It provides the community with a scheme by which to monitor changes in reef health. Negros Oriental has established 26 marine protected areas along its coast with varying amounts of enforcement of regulations. Dynamite fishing is eliminated although cyanide is still used in limited areas. It is proposed to enlarge the existing monitoring regime to cover some or all of these MPAs with the aim that the data is used by Reef Check in its assessment of the health of coral reefs and for the local community in managing the local reefs. This would be an excellent opportunity, as a demonstration site, to compare the different management methods on Negros Oriental and to see if provision of information to community groups actually assists in conservation of coral reefs.
Comparing community-based surveys with professional. Phuket is the center of the dive industry in Thailand. From Phuket, local dive sites are visited daily while live-aboard boats take divers to offshore islands in the Andaman Sea. There is impact from divers, fishers and pollution from the land on coastal coral reefs. Within Phuket a marine biological station conducts both coral reef monitoring and research. This demonstration site would bring together the copious data collected by a network of dive shop operators and the more rigorous data collected by the marine station for the benefit of improved management. This coordination would allow for quality control, testing of methods and improved monitoring for the local area. The example set here could then be carried to the whole region where data collection, acquisition and feedback is not adequately carried out, as was discussed at the recent EAS/RCU Coral Reef Monitoring and Data Acquisition Workshop.
Raising the awareness on coral reefs and their socio-economic value in the Nha Trang Marine Protected Area. Coral reefs in Viet Nam have similar problems as in other developing countries in that basic information concerning coral reef health and exploitation is required. In many cases in Viet Nam marine protected areas have been established. At Nha Trang there is a good deal of research and management conducted through the Oceanography Institute. A demonstration site to educate local people and tourists on the necessary care and attention needed within a marine protected area is proposed. This demonstration could also be a focal area in determining the socio-economic value of coral reef systems providing further information on changing community use of coral reefs. Local language posters and brochures would also be prepared as part of this educational program.
9 Participating Countries: Australia, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Due to map scale, some of the countries are not visible.
10 G. Kelleher, et al 1995. A Global Representative System of Marine Protected Areas. Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, The World Bank, The World Conservation Union (IUCN). http://www.erin.gov.au/library/pubs/mpa/foreword.html