Conserving marine biodiversity in the Sulu-Sulawesi Seascape

Project description

Title: Support to the Implementation of the Regional Plan of Action of the Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Security in the Sulu-Sulawesi Seascape Countries
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU)
Countries: Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines
Lead executing agencies: Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Security (CTI-CFF)
Overall term: 2012 to 2018

EAFM 1st Learning Exchange


The Sulu-Sulawesi Seascape, shared by Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines, is one of the most diverse and productive marine ecosystems in the world. Located in the northern part of the Coral Triangle, it is known as the world’s centre of marine biodiversity. This area is home to South-East Asia’s largest nesting population of green sea turtles. Marine and coastal resources provide food, livelihood, protection from natural catastrophes and other critical benefits to millions of people in the adjacent countries. Anthropogenic influences such as overfishing, destructive fishing practices, rapid population growth, unsustainable coastal development and pollution threaten these resources. This situation is further exacerbated by climate change and its impacts, such as the rise in water temperatures and sea level, ocean acidification and an increase in the intensity and frequency of storms. The six member states of the Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Security (CTI-CFF), Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, the Solomon Islands and Timor-Leste, recognise the Sulu-Sulawesi Seascape as one of CTI-CFF’s priority Seascapes.


The three countries in the Sulu-Sulawesi Ecoregion are implementing selected activities of the regional action plan of the CTI-CFF in the project. Regional cooperative mechanisms are being established to counterbalance the current risks. The overarching objective is to conserve marine biodiversity and manage resources sustainably.


The main focus of the project is the establishment of a transboundary marine protected area (MPA) network for the conservation of green turtles. The project also aims to increase the management effectiveness of the individual marine protected areas and promotes an Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries Management in selected sites.

Additional support comes from objective-orientated research. At a regional level, thematic working groups and CTI-CFF organisational development are supported. Regional discussion forums and travel between the countries to learn and gain experience are being organised between the countries to institutionalise tried and tested methodologies within the Sulu-Sulawesi Ecoregion and the CTI-CFF member states.


The Philippine part of the transboundary MPA network for marine turtles was successfully established. The national fisheries laws for MPAs have been updated and made stricter. Meanwhile, Berau in the East Kalimantan Province in Indonesia, an important nesting and feeding habitat of marine turtles that will form part of the transboundary MPA network, was declared a protected area. An interim management unit was established for the area. In Sabah, Malaysia, fishermen are assisted with registration for fishing with the fishing association to improve their socio-economic status.

Marine Protected Area Mapping

The project also facilitated scientific research on the biology and ecology of marine turtles in the Sulu-Sulawesi Seascape. The focus was on migratory patterns to reduce bycatch and illegal fishing. In addition, it identified potential areas for expanding the conservation area network. This, in turn, helped shape and modify management and conservation strategies. Targeted studies on the status of the Napoleon wrasse and sharks and rays in the Philippines led to the introduction of national action plans that contain policy recommendations as well as management measures.

A number of regional discussion forums on different topics served as a platform to share knowledge and experiences.

In addition, managers of marine protected areas and governmental employees received training in developing strategies for sustainable tourism strategies. The countries have jointly worked to determine how they can brand CTI-CFF as a prime nature-based tourism destination.

Additional information