Joint protection of the Sulu-Sulawesi Marine Ecoregion

Project description

Title: Implementation of the Sulu-Sulawesi Marine Ecoregion (SSME) trilateral action plan
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB)
Countries: Asia: Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines
Lead executing agencies: Indonesia's Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries (MMAF); Malaysia's Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MOSTI); Philippines' Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)
Overall term: 2012 to 2017

Philippines. Sulu-Sulawesi Marine Ecoregion (SSME). © GIZ


Only a few regions in the world are as rich in species as the Sulu-Sulawesi Marine Ecoregion (SSME). It is part of the Coral Triangle region in the Pacific that spans a total of 640 million hectares between Indonesia, Malaysia, Timor-Leste, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines and the Solomon Islands. Nowhere else are there so many coral, crustacean and marine plant species. It is home to over 3,000 species of fish, twice as many as in any other region of the world. Even some critically endangered species such as the hawksbill sea turtle are able to find a habitat and the chance to reproduce here.

The natural resources of the region are exposed to considerable risk as a result of severe over-exploitation due to population growth, destructive fishing practices, rapid coastal development and other human activities. 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 states of the Coral Triangle have founded a multinational partnership, the Coral Triangle Initiative, to address the effects of climate change together.

To tackle the challenges in the Coral Triangle region effectively, it is necessary to step up cooperation, especially in relation to individual marine regions like the SSME, and promote a cross-border network of marine protected areas, for example. The action plan of the SSME states of Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines highlights the global importance and unique nature of the marine region in terms of biodiversity and natural resources.


The three states of the Sulu-Sulawesi Marine Ecoregion – Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines – jointly develop climate-related spatial and development plans and implement them effectively. They successfully coordinate measures under a joint action plan and work together to implement cross-border projects concerned with marine protected areas, sustainable fisheries and species conservation.


The project supports government institutions of the SSME states by providing advice and training, especially in regard to climate-related planning in coastal and marine areas.

In order to consolidate the cooperation between the three countries and to develop and implement a joint action plan, it was decided to establish a joint project secretariat and create project centres in each of the three countries. In addition, the project supports the joint planning, financing and implementation of bilateral and trilateral projects. Research findings obtained through these efforts are published in databases as well as on websites in all three countries and beyond.

The Coral Triangle Initiative and the three states of the Sulu-Sulawesi Marine Ecoregion present the successes and best practices emerging from their work at regional workshops conducted for representatives of governments and research institutions. This approach enables the results to be communicated to the staff of authorities and institutions who, in turn, are able to integrate them into their local and national planning guidelines.


The project secretariat has been successfully set up in the Philippines. Studies on the management of marine protected areas in the Philippines have identified threats to biological diversity and people's livelihoods. On the basis of these findings, the project is adapting the management plans with its partners to minimise these threats.

Philippines. A child spends his afternoon on the beach, Silago, Leyte. © GIZ

A further measure envisaged is to create a regional network of conservation areas to protect sea turtles and their habitats. The focus will be on connecting various protected areas with each other and activities to adapt them to climate change.