Two men haul a canoe onto the beach on a small island in Central Sulawesi.

Sulu-Sulawesi Seascape

Boasting one of the world’s most diverse and productive marine areas, the Sulu-Sulawesi Seascape is threatened by the needs of a growing population.


The Sulu-Sulawesi Seascape is located within the globally significant Coral Triangle, an area considered the center of the world’s marine biodiversity. The seascape spans 900,000 square kilometers (347,490 square miles) across the waters between Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines.


Why is it important?

Jobs and livelihoods

Restoring mangroves and managing marine protected areas provide economic opportunities for local fisheries and communities. We have helped train, certify and equip more than 1,000 volunteer community enforcement teams who enforce management regulations that will lead to long-term sustainability and conservation.

Joy and inspiration

The Sulu-Sulawesi Seascape is home to diverse ecosystems, including coral reefs, seagrass meadows and mangrove forests. New species are still regularly discovered, and reef fish and sharks, sea turtles and manta rays are among the charismatic animals that bring joy and inspiration to coastal communities and tourists alike.


What are the issues?

$12.9 billion
in damages from Haiyan
Climate change
According to the United Nations, the Philippines ranks as the third nation most at risk from the effects of climate change. In November 2013, the Philippines experienced the most destructive and powerful tropical cyclone to ever make landfall. Typhoon Haiyan claimed over 6,000 lives, and total damages and losses cost an estimated US$ 12.9 billion. Climate science suggests an increase in the likelihood of such extreme storms. To reduce coastal vulnerability, Conservation International is working with partners in the Philippines to promote ecosystem-based approaches to adaptation.
40 million
depend on marine resources
Rapid population growth
Approximately 40 million people who live along the Sulu-Sulawesi Seascape coasts depend on marine resources for their livelihoods and food — with fish as their main source of protein. However, coastal ecosystems and the way of life they support are under intense pressure from rapid population growth, detrimental development and increasing threats associated with climate change.

Our role

Conservation International works with partners in the Sulu-Sulawesi Seascape to safeguard natural resources — like mangrove forests and coral reefs — and the benefits they provide to people by strengthening the management of marine protected areas and sustainable fisheries for more resilient coastal communities. Conservation International and local partners have fostered a 250% increase in the total marine area under some form of protection in three of the seascape’s marine biodiversity conservation corridors.

Our plan

Community-based mangrove rehabilitation

Conservation International is addressing both poverty and the degradation of mangroves that are important for coastal protection, fisheries, climate resiliency and carbon sequestration and storage. Through community-based mangrove restoration projects and subsequent ecotourism activities, the seascape’s residents earn income and improve their livelihoods. For example, we have collaborated with the Philippine province of Oriental Mindoro and the local government of Calapan City to establish the Silonay Mangrove Conservation and Eco-tourism Park, an ecosystem-based adaptation project that restores mangroves to protect the community from storm surges, sea level rise and coastal erosion — and also provides income to the local people involved in the park’s management and work.


Engagement with local governments

Conservation International works closely with local governments and communities to work with people to actively participate in the protection and management of their coastal resources. Despite the challenges of working in a deeply populated region with multiple and competing demands for resources, the Sulu-Sulawesi Seascape partnership works to foster more local government and community involvement in stewardship of the marine area. For instance, local governments are allocating increasing budgets to protect fisheries and mangroves, while also enforcing marine protected area regulations.

By the numbers

79% increase in no-take zone

The Sulu-Sulawesi Seascape partnership has secured a 79% increase in the total no-take zone area in three conservation corridors. This gain in marine protected area coverage, combined with improved management, enhanced enforcement capacity and a comprehensive communications campaign, has significantly improved the sustainable management of the seascape’s marine resources.