The Asia-Pacific is not only home to more than half of the world’s population, but also places of critical ecological importance. These include dense forests as well as critical marine ecosystems that support the life of some of the world’s rarest and most endangered land and marine species. The Pacific Ocean, the largest and deepest ocean on Earth, alone has more marine species than any other ocean basin. The pressure of the region’s dense population on the ecosystem has been alarming. This is why several organizations are racing against time with their marine conservation projects to protect and preserve the ecosystems and the flora and fauna they support.
As we celebrate World Environment Day (WED) on June 5, it’s time to take a look at these organizations and come together to create a safe, sustainable and secure future.
One of the largest conservation initiatives in the world, Conservation International began its work in Asia-Pacific in 1989. It began with a goal of protecting critical biodiversity hotspots spread across the region, including tropical forests. of Sundaland and the Philippine archipelago. The organization is today at the forefront of all major conservation efforts, including marine conservation. Through its programs, the organization also contributes to providing support to local communities in terms of food security and the financing of conservation projects.
In the 12 Asia-Pacific countries where it is present, it contributes to the fight against climate change by restoring critical ecosystems such as the mangrove forests in the regions of the Philippines and the forests that feed the Mekong River. It has also created a string of marine protected areas (MPAs) including one in New Caledonia which is the second largest in the world. People in countries such as Cambodia are trained in efficient fishing practices while farmers in the Philippines are helped to replace environmentally harmful practices such as slash-and-burn.
Australian Marine Conservation Society
Established 56 years ago, the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) is the only national charity dedicated to the protection of Caribbean marine life. AMCS has scientists, educators and advocates who help raise awareness of Australian marine life and take action to protect it through science and activism. His work includes protecting ocean ecosystems such as the Great Barrier Reef and Ningaloo as well as endangered species such as the Australian sea lion. The conservation of wetlands such as the Boondall Wetlands in Moreton Bay is also part of their efforts. He was also instrumental in banning plastics in many Australian states.
Considered the world authority on seahorses and their parents by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the Seahorse project focuses on the protection of seahorses and through them, the marine environment. Research is at the heart of the project and its results are used to create informed and effective conservation plans in an area with the help of stakeholders, including individuals and governments.
The Seahorse Project carried out its research programs and activities in Asia-Pacific countries of Thailand, the Philippines and China. It has helped establish 35 non-harvest marine protected areas (MPAs) in the threatened double barrier coral reef system of Danajon Bank in the Philippines, and more are being established. MPAs are essential for the survival of seahorses and the reef. They also help rebuild destroyed marine ecosystems and restore community fishing grounds.
Other achievements of the project include the training of over 175 professional environmentalists as well as many citizen scientists and the empowerment of a regional coalition of 1,000 low-income fishing families in Asia.
Green Fins’ mission statement states that it aims to “protect and conserve coral reefs by establishing and implementing environmentally friendly guidelines to promote a sustainable tourism industry of diving and snorkeling.” The Reef-World Foundation, in partnership with the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), coordinates the Green Fins program globally. Government staff, often in collaboration with NGOs, implement their approach in the respective countries.
Marine tourism operators can help conserve coral reefs and reduce unsustainable tourism practices with the help of a 15-point code of conduct that urges them to undertake regular beach or underwater cleaning, monitoring regular marine life and data reporting, prevent toxic chemicals from entering waters and educate guests about MEPs, among other guidelines. In the Asia-Pacific region, Green Fins has been or is active in Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, Philippines, Palau and Timor-Leste.
Dive for change
Through diving courses and diving trips, Scuba for Change (SFC) strives to develop a form of sustainable tourism that benefits both the local economy and the marine environment. The program operates in the Philippines and has around 30 dive sites ranging from three-meter reefs to a 60-meter wall in the town of Puerto Galera.
Whatever profits SFC makes, it injects 50 percent to fund programs that help prevent child exploitation. This is done in partnership with the NGO Stairway Foundation. Of the remainder, 10 percent represent the share of local staff and 40 percent are earmarked for sustainable future growth in developing countries. SFC, which was established in 1998, aims to train and empower local staff at dive centers across the Philippines so that they can manage them on their own.
To date, the Project AWARE Foundation has helped remove 1.8 million debris from the oceans. The foundation is active in 182 countries and has participated in more than 2,17,000 conservation actions. Protecting the oceans is at the heart of the foundation, which is led by an ever-growing team of scuba divers and ocean advocates.
In the 28 years since its founding, Project AWARE has established operations in nearly every ocean and sea around the world. Their Dive Against Debris card is one of the most crucial databases for ocean protection. It contains details of all the debris that has been tracked and removed by over 90,000 divers since 2011. It also contains information on the locations of entangled animals and their types at debris recovery sites. The action map reveals the locations of scheduled workshops and campaigns undertaken by the foundation.
Large marine vertebrate project
Large Marine Vertebrates Project (LAMAVE) is a Philippines-based NGO dedicated to protecting and preserving marine megafauna such as manta rays and whale sharks in the country and in Southeast Asia. Scientific solutions are applied to conservation challenges and data is collected to build population bases of marine animals. The methods involve tagging, deploying cameras in deep-sea shark habitats, and creating management tools based on the results obtained from the research. Locals are trained and supported to become more involved in the conservation of marine ecosystems and knowledge of megafauna is passed from community to community, creating a larger network of knowledgeable societies. Governments, tourists and businesses are as much a part of this effort as the locals.
LAMAVE, which began in 2010 as a marine mammal research expedition in the Bohol Sea, has a long list of accomplishments. He has spent more than 20,000 hours of research in the water, has trained more than 250 volunteers and academics in scientific research methods and manages the national catalog of three endangered species. To study marine animals, the organization laid the groundwork for an open national acoustic network. LAMAVE also conducted five Expedition Shark research missions in Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park.
Fins attached: marine research and conservation
The goal of Fins Attached is to protect the marine ecosystem through research, education and conservation activities. The project aims to protect in particular top predators, especially sharks, which are able to maintain a balanced and healthy marine ecosystem.
Fins Attached works in partnership with researchers and NGOs with a common goal. These include Mission Blue, Crema, and The Sharkwater Team, among others. They conduct research expeditions around the world throughout the year. Donors can participate in some of the expeditions, which span multiple days and can take place in the waters of places like Costa Rica and the Cocos Islands.