What we do

The Coordinating Body on the Seas of East Asia (COBSEA) supprts participating countries (Cambodia, People’s Republic of China, Indonesia, Republic of Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Singapore and Vietnam) in the development and protection of the marine environment and coastal areas of East Asian Seas. COBSEA activities are guided by the Strategic Directions 2018-2022, adopted by the Second Extraordinary Intergovernmental Meeting of COBSEA in 2018. Specifically in relation to marine litter, participating countries and the COBSEA Secretariat are guided by the Regional Action Plan on Marine Litter (RAP MALI) adopted by the 24th Intergovernmental Meeting in 2019.

Past strategies in the context of the East Asian Seas Action Plan include:

  • Long term strategies (1987-96) for the East Asian Seas Action Plan
  • Long-term strategy (1994-2009) of the Coordinating Body on the Seas of East Asia
  • Vision and Plan – A Systematic Approach adopted in 1999
  • New Strategic Direction for COBSEA (2008-2012)

COBSEA Strategic Directions 2018-2022

The purpose of the COBSEA Strategic Directions 2018-2022 is to guide COBSEA participating countries and the COBSEA Secretariat in action towards development and protection of the marine environment and coastal areas of East Asian Seas, leveraging COBSEA as an intergovernmental policy mechanism towards planning, implementation and tracking of delivery of ocean-related Sustainable Development Goals, in line with the global
Regional Seas Directions 2017-2020.

To this end, the Strategic Directions 2018-2022 address current regional priorities and priorities expressed in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, with a focus on two substantive themes: Land-based marine pollution; and Marine and coastal planning and management; as well as an over-arching Governance theme. The substantive themes identify priority issues relevant to the region’s marine and coastal environment and sustainable development, where COBSEA has a particular mandate or comparative advantage to catalyse and deliver policy development, projects and other activities. The governance theme addresses COBSEA as a regional policy mechanism and identifies priorities in creating the necessary conditions for COBSEA and its Secretariat to efficiently deliver their mandates.

Land-based Marine Pollution

Human activities on land are a major threat to the health, productivity and biodiversity of the marine environment in East Asian Seas. Approximately 80 per cent of all marine pollution is caused by human activities on land in the form of solid waste leakage including plastic from inadequate waste management; sewage disposal in rivers and coastal waters; urban storm-water run-off; sediment mobilisation; inadequately treated waters from industries; discharges of phosphorus and nitrogen used in agriculture; and dumping of heavy metals and persistent organic pollutants. Marine pollution is a transboundary issue, requiring regional approaches in diagnosing as well as designing and prioritizing coherent, effective policy and management responses. In addressing land-based pollution, COBSEA will focus on a) Nutrients, sediments and wastewater; as well as b) Marine litter and microplastics. Read more

Marine and Coastal Planning and Management

The East Asian Seas region has the richest marine biodiversity in the world. It contains one of the greatest concentrations of coral reefs, mangroves, seagrasses, coastal wetlands and other important habitats. Human activities in the region threaten reef health and other ecosystems and jeopardize the benefits that flow from the services and goods. In addressing marine and coastal planning and management, COBSEA will strengthen use of ecosystem-based
management approaches based on the best available scientific evidence, including MPAs and MSP, towards
achievement of relevant Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Aichi Targets. Read more

Governance, Resource Mobilization and Partnerships

The governance theme reinforces COBSEA’s role as a catalyst of actions that support regional delivery of the SDGs and in particular SDG 14. This includes aligning regional marine and coastal ecological objectives and actions with the 2030 Agenda, and using COBSEA as the regional mechanism for supporting planning, tracking and reporting on relevant SDGs, in line with relevant United Nations Environment Assembly resolutions. By serving as a forum for exchange of experiences, policy and practice related to the two substantive themes, COBSEA’s role as a regional policy mechanism is strengthened. Its value to participating countries as a sustainability mechanism for project activities is also enhanced, in terms of policy uptake as well as in terms of legacy activities related to data and knowledge outputs and networks of experts and institutions. Activities under the governance theme include the preparation of a regional SDG Implementation Outlook focusing on COBSEA substantive themes, which is currently underway. Read more