Conservation without borders

After six years of harmonious collaboration to protect the home of the world’s richest marine biodiversity, the governments of Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines, the tri-national governance of the Sulu Sulawesi Marine Ecoregion (SSME), are announcing the results of their work, to document accomplishments and lessons learned.

Six years after the three countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding during the Convention on Biological Diversity-Conference of Parties 7 (CBD COP7) in Kuala Lumpur, they will deliver an update at a forum in Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture, Japan, where the CBD COP10 is being held from October 18-29, 2010. The forum will be at the Ana Crowne Plaza Hotel Grand Court Nagoya on October 22 at 10:00 am.

Entitled “Making Transboundary Conservation Work in the Coral Triangle: A Report from Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines on the Sulu-Sulawesi Marine Ecoregion,” the forum will underscore the significance of a successfully managed seascape within the bigger context of the Coral Triangle. The SSME is a globally important biogeographic unit, a one million-square kilometer biodiversity center that is home to 40 million people, fisheries that yield about a million tons a year, and a tourism industry worth billions of dollars. It is also called the apex of the Coral Triangle, the larger region of global biodiversity that encompasses the waters of six countries and is home to some 150 million people.

“The SSME is a microcosm of how things should be,” says Conservation International Philippines Country Director Romeo B. Trono. “Many different seascapes make up the Coral Triangle, and the SSME is one that works. It can serve as a delivery mechanism which can be replicated on a larger scale in the Coral Triangle, and which can serve as a model and mentor to other potential seascapes in the area in terms of management and effectiveness.”

The three stakeholder nations established a Tri-National Committee to govern the SSME in 2006. In 2009, the region was formally recognized by the six Coral Triangle nations as the Coral Triangle Initiative’s very first priority seascape.

The SSME is governed by a Tri-National Committee, under which three subcommittees address three main issues: threatened, charismatic, and migratory species; marine protected areas (MPA) and networks; and fisheries.

In the area of species, the forum will report on the dynamics of a transboundary MPA network for sea turtles that includes all areas relevant to the animal’s life history—not just nesting sites, but also development habitats, feeding areas, and mating grounds.

The species subcommittee report will be delivered by Norma Molinyawe, Chief of the Biodiversity Division of the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB) of the Philippines’ Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

In the field of MPA networks, the forum will touch on the more refined design of MPAs for better fisheries management, taking into account the connectivity of different areas, such as spawning sites and locations of larval dispersal. The MPAs subcommittee report will be delivered by Agus Dermawan, Director of Directorate of Conservation and Marine National Parks of Indonesia’s Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries.

Finally, under fisheries, the forum will report on how large-scale trawling fleet owners from Sabah, Malaysia learned about Turtle Exclusion Devices (TED) during an observation trip to Louisiana, U.S.A., and how this mechanism can potentially save a species, while making sustainable fishing possible. A Sulu-Celebes Sea Sustainable Fisheries Management Project is also the first transboundary project in the SSME under the Global Environment Facility (GEF). Rooney Biusing, Assistant Director of the Department of Fisheries-Sabah, will deliver the fisheries subcommittee report.

The forum will also include an overview of the SSME, presented by Manuel Gerochi, Undersecretary of the Philippines’ DENR, and a presentation of the SSME Comprehensive Action Plans for species protection, MPA networks and sustainable fisheries by Theresa Mundita Lim, Director of the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau of the Philippines’ DENR.

This event is being organized in partnership with Conservation International, with support from the Asian Development Bank. For more information on the SSME, please contact the office of: Theresa Mundita Lim Director, Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau Department of Environment and Natural Resources (Philippines) Chair, Tri-National Committee for Sulu-Sulawesi Marine Ecoregion (SSME) T: +632 924-6031 | E: