Sulu-Sulawesi: A Seascape in the Heart of the Coral Triangle

By Supin Wongbusarakum
Bunaken National Marine Park is located near the center of the Coral Triangle region, north of Sulawesi island, Indonesia.

Bunaken National Marine Park is located near the center of the Coral Triangle region, north of Sulawesi island, Indonesia.

Map of the Sulu-Sulawesi Seascape.  Image: Marine Conservation Institute (2014), MPAtlas [On-line]. Seattle, WA. Available at: www.mpatlas.org [Accessed (03/08/2015)].

Map of the Sulu-Sulawesi Seascape.
Image: Marine Conservation Institute (2014), MPAtlas [On-line]. Seattle, WA. Available at: http://www.mpatlas.org [Accessed (03/08/2015)].

It is an interesting challenge to contemplate future plans for a vast blue seascape, bright with corals and teeming with fish, under florescent lights in a carpeted hotel meeting room in Manado, Indonesia. The Sulu-Sulawesi Seascape is a complex marine region in the heart of the Coral Triangle—one of the most biologically diverse and most threatened marine environments in the world. In high demand for fisheries and coastal resources, this region is complicated by the intersection of political and cultural boundaries between Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines. A clear plan for sustainable fisheries management is needed more than ever.

In early June, a multi-national team, brought together by the Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Security (CTI-CFF), convened to formulate an Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries Management (EAFM) plan for the Sulu-Sulawesi Seascape that balances ecological health and human well-being through good governance.

Participants in the 2015 CTI-CFF Sulu-Sulawesi Seascape EAFM Implementation Planning Meeting.

Participants in the 2015 CTI-CFF Sulu-Sulawesi Seascape EAFM Implementation Planning Meeting.

Rusty Brainard and Supin Wongbusarakum from the NOAA PIFSC Coral Reef Ecosystem Division (CRED), Angelina Stella and Paige Casey from the NOAA Office of Law Enforcement, and Bob Pomeroy from the University of Connecticut Sea Grant Program, served as facilitators and resource experts at the Sulu-Sulawesi Seascape EAFM Implementation Planning Meeting from June 2-5, 2015.

Rusty Brainard provides an overview of an Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries Management (EAFM).

Rusty Brainard provides an overview of an Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries Management (EAFM).

Working with senior fisheries officers, monitoring, control, and surveillance leads from the Philippines and Indonesia, EAFM experts, representatives from a regional project funded by the Asian Development Bank, World Wildlife Fund, and other Coral Triangle partners, the team agreed on a vision for the future of the Sulu-Sulawesi Seascape: By 2035, the Sulu-Sulawesi is a marine eco-region that is ecologically healthy and delivers ecosystem services that provide equitable socio-economic and cultural benefits through generations, by collaborative and sustainable fisheries management across all political and cultural boundaries.

To tackle the key issues on unsustainable exploitation of fisheries, largely due to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, and habitat loss, the participants identified specific goals for each of the three components of an EAFM: Human Well-being (Socioeconomic), Ecological Well-being, and Good Governance.

Supin Wongbusarakum leads a discussion on linking ecological, socioeconomic, and governance goals.

Supin Wongbusarakum facilitates discussions on objectives, indicators, and management activities to meet the Human Well-being (Socioeconomic) Goal.

Human Well-being (Socioeconomic) Goal:
– Resilient and self-reliant coastal communities through sustainable livelihoods and equitable access to resources and basic social services.

Ecological Well-being Goals:
– Sustainable fisheries and other living marine resources, starting with small pelagic fisheries and expanding to other fisheries at a later time.
– Sulu-Sulawesi Seascape marine waters and habitats are healthy for fishery resources especially in the face of global climate change.

Good Governance Goal:
– Improved ecosystem approach to managing fishery resources through effective governance mechanisms and operational implementation (including capacity building) and enforcement of regulations, national and transboundary, including prosecution.

By following the EAFM planning process, the group established clear objectives, indicators, and management actions as well as identified opportunities, constraints, and key stakeholders for each of the above goals. In closing, the international participants agreed to bring the draft EAFM plan to their country’s stakeholders for internal review.

The workshop concluded with a positive outlook and willingness from all the parties to continue actively working together. The group will reconvene in the fall to complete the draft EAFM plan and begin implementation—helping to ensure sustainable fisheries in a complex and ecologically important marine region.

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