The 3rd East Asian Seas Congress was held from 23-27 November 2009 in Manila, Philippines, under the theme of "Partnerships at Work: Local Implementation and Good Practices," to review progress with implementation of the Sustainable Development Strategy for the Seas of East Asia (SDS-SEA), as well as to highlight initiatives and good practices that are being carried out in East Asia for the sustainable use of the coastal and marine resources in the region (http://pemsea.org/eascongress). Some 1,400 government officials, scientists, consultants and NGOs attended the event which was hosted by the Government of the Philippines and organized by the Partnerships in Environmental Management for the Seas of East Asia (PEMSEA; http://pemsea.org/).
The meeting was divided into six themes, each with a number of parallel workshops to discuss topics under that theme. Under this arrangement, the Ramsar Convention Secretariat cooperated with the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity and the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau of the Government of the Philippines to organise a two-day workshop entitled ‘Networking of Marine Protected Areas: Benefits, good practices, standards and next steps’, under Theme 3, ‘Habitat protection and Restoration and Management’. This workshop aimed to discuss the benefits of having a network of marine protected areas (MPAs) in the East Asian Seas region, the aims of such a network, and how it could be established and maintained.
Participants at this particular workshop first heard presentations on the ‘Benefits of managing MPAs as a network’, then ‘Good practices in developing networks of MPAs’ and finally, ‘Common goals, targets and standards for partnership and collaboration’.
The benefits of having a network of MPAs on a regional level was brought out using the example of migratory sea turtles, in order to conserve the breeding, feeding and migratory sites the species depend upon throughout its life cycle, which can be located in different countries. A presentation from the Philippines then showed that on a national or local level, a network of MPAs is also important in terms of management efficiency, and the important role that local governments can have in MPA management using a ‘bottom-up’ approach.
The workshop then heard presentations on the effectiveness of MPA networks in the ASEAN region, as well as in Indonesia, China, Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand. Whilst there were success stories from the region and from the countries, such as the political will to increase the area and number of MPAs in certain countries, MPAs were also facing problems through insufficient funding; being too small in size; having unclear boundaries; not being sufficiently representative of the area that needed to be protected; as well as suffering from conflicts between conservation and exploitation. Then whilst there are a number of regional projects to conserve important marine and coastal areas, e.g. the Sulu Sulawesi Marine Ecoregion, Bismarck Solomon Seas Ecoregion, Coral Triangle Initiative, and Lesser Sunda Ecoregion, it was felt that more could be done to improve cooperation between these projects.
The benefits from having common goals, targets and standards was highlighted using the network of coastal Ramsar sites in East Asia, whilst a presentation on gaps in the existing MPA network in East Asia brought out the need to have better representation of areas of biodiversity importance included in MPAs, and the effective management of MPAs in general.
The needs of the local communities living in and around MPAs were not forgotten in the discussions and it was stressed that benefits from any network of MPAs should not only be for the biodiversity, but also for the local communities living in and around the MPAs who are dependent for their livelihood on the resources from the MPA, and who may also be involved in the management and conservation of the site.
Although the workshop did not come to a clear set of conclusions on developing a network of MPAs in the East Asian Seas region, it was still extremely valuable in highlighting the issues that would have to be considered when setting up such a network, and workshop participants will continue to work afterwards on addressing those issues.
PEMSEA has played an increasingly important role in building and strengthening partnerships for good coastal and ocean governance in the East Asian Seas region since it began as a project in 1994. As a result of that, an agreement recognizing the legal personality of PEMSEA was signed on the last day of the congress by the eight partner nations to PEMSEA, so transforming PEMSEA into a fully-fledged international body.
The 4th EAS Congress will be held in Busan, Republic of Korea, in 2012.
Head table of dignitaries during the opening ceremony of the congress.
Fidel V. Ramos, Former President of the Government of the Philippines and a keen scuba diver, giving a keynote presentation at the opening ceremony of the congress.
Banner announcing the workshop on ‘Networking of Marine Protected Areas: Benefits, good practices, standards and next steps’ which the Ramsar Secretariat assisted in organizing together with the ASEAN Centre of Biodiversity and the Government of the Philippines.
A visit was also made to the Naujun Lake Ramsar site, Philippines, prior to the start of the congress.