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. These threats range from sedimentation from deforestation, agricultural practices and coastal development, pollution, tourism, harvesting of corals for aquarium trade, tourist curios and cement, destructive fishing practices and overfishing, to global issues like global warming and rise in sea temperature.
The East Asian Seas Action Plan envisages implementation of integrated marine and coastal management, including the establishment of a viable network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), in order to conserve biodiversity and maintain productivity. Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) provides a means to achieve integration across economic sectors and ecosystems and enable embedding of MPAs and MPA networks within broader development plans. This embodies an ecosystem-based approach based on the best available scientific evidence.
While significant progress has been made in the region in terms of establishment of Marine Protected Areas, there are still gaps in relation to, for example, MPA coverage, networking, and integration of MPAs within broader spatial planning efforts.
COBSEA has contributed to the resource base for ecosystem-based marine and coastal planning and management. This includes technical tools as well as a network of national institutions and resource persons, such as the working groups on coral reefs, mangroves, seagrass, coastal wetlands and fishery refugia established in the context of developing and implementing the Strategic Action Programme for the South China Sea.
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 and Aichi Targets.