Long-term ocean resilience necessitates international cooperation

A panel discussion on November 16 in Malaysia, part of Asia-Pacific Climate Week 2023, highlighted the importance of international collaboration in efficiently utilizing marine resources and establishing robust transboundary governance.

Afran Uzzaman, moderator of the discussion and climate change expert from FAO Bangladesh, said: “Take Pro Blue, for example, which was initiated by the World Bank. It has been introduced to provide support in testing the most effective practices and technologies. However, it seems that these international collaborative efforts such as Pro Blue, have not been widely implemented.” 

In other words, this discussion has drawn attention to the concerning lack of collaboration regarding our oceanic environment at the transboundary level.

Panel discussion. Photo credit: Annjil Chong


Dr. Mak Soeun, deputy director-general, General Directorate of Agriculture, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries, Cambodia, stated that various factors such as climate change, economic and infrastructure development, overfishing, excessive exploitation of marine resources, changes in agriculture and forestry practices, and land use in coastal areas have substantial impacts not only on Cambodia’s oceans but also on a transboundary scale.

“In order to harness transformative adaptation and enhance long-term resilience, Cambodia is implementing the Blue Oceans approach and committing to international conventions, laws, regional agreements, action plans, and national regulations pertaining to sea and fisheries management,” Soeun said.

“The Cambodian government has also integrated ocean actions and ocean-based solutions into Cambodia’s Climate Change Strategic Plan 2014 to 2023. Updates are being made to Cambodia’s Nationally Determined Contribution for 2030, as well as the Long-term Strategy for Carbon Neutrality by 2050 and the green growth strategy.”

The priority actions adopted by Cambodia for transformative adaptations and long-term resilience were as follows.

•          Strengthen the protection and conservation of coastal and marine ecosystems, including marine fisheries, aquatic resources, mangroves, and biodiversity.

•          Strengthen the capacity of coastal and marine-based ecosystem communities, specifically the marine fishery community, in response to climate change.

•          Improve climate-tolerant seed and broodstock for key aquaculture fish species and enhancing stock.

•          Conduct research and development on coastal and marine ecosystems.

•          Manage and rehabilitate critical fisheries habitats in coastal and marine ecosystems, which is crucial for enhancing climate resilience.

•          Promote good aquaculture practices and multi-farming, including conservation agriculture practices, in coastal and marine-based areas.

•          Promote eco-tourism in protected coastal and marine areas to ensure the conservation of these valuable ecosystems.

•          Reduce and stop deforestation, promote afforestation, improve forest management and restoration, implemente mangrove forestry, promote agroforestry, and implemente the REDD++ investment plan.

•          Enhance, restore, and protect coastal and marine-based biodiversity, ecosystems, and communities, as well as promote effective watershed management.

•          Implement the Regional Plan of Action to Prevent, Deter, and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing.

Soeun agreed that achieving this ambitious objective requires collective efforts from all stakeholders. By fostering collaboration, sharing knowledge, and engaging in joint actions, Cambodia can effectively steer towards a more environmentally friendly future while ensuring long-term sustainability for its population and natural surroundings.


With its 17,404 islands, Indonesia holds the distinction of being the largest archipelagic state in the world. Given this unique geographical setting, the implementation of the blue economy concept has the potential to position the country as the most prosperous archipelagic country globally. 

Dr. Novi Susetyo Adi, senior marine spatial ecologist, Directorate of Coastal Area and Small Islands Utilization, Indonesian Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries, commented: “Such a scenario, unfortunately, doesn’t presently occur. 

“In fact, these particular communities, specifically those residing along the coast and in small settlements, are among some of the most marginalized groups in our country with disproportionately high poverty rates. This fact is validated by various economic indicators.

“During my visits to numerous islands for ecological and mapping surveys, I have observed a concerning trend. Many private entities, particularly from the tourism and aquaculture sectors, heavily invest in these islands. They construct tourism infrastructure and aquaculture ponds, but often engage in unsustainable business practices that pose a threat to the environment.

“The development of tourism facilities, including jetties and additional infrastructure, has led to the encroachment upon coastal areas that serve as habitats for coral reefs and seagrass. Also, unsustainable practices have caused coastal erosion.”

The Indonesian government acknowledged certain concerns and subsequently adopted a stringent approach towards enforcing regulations on marine special planning. To date, any entities or individuals utilizing marine areas are required to submit a permit application for evaluation. 

“Our assessment aims to ensure compliance with the specific marine special planning objectives within that particular area,” Adi said. “Due to the vast number of islands (amounting to 17,404), we have limited capacity to effectively monitor all activities associated with these permits.”

Besides, the Indonesian government has embarked on several restoration initiatives with the objective of revitalizing coastal ecosystems, with a particular focus on mangroves. 

This approach extends beyond mere tree planting as it actively engages local communities to identify means of generating income and enhancing livelihoods through mangrove restoration endeavors. A notable achievement in this regard is the establishment of mangrove tourism zones in close proximity to these communities.

According to Adi, certain mangrove projects have yielded favorable results, but others have faced difficulties as a result of the distinctive cultural dynamics present in each community.

When asked about the solution to address coastal erosion issues on islands, he responded that they implemented a hybrid engineering approach. This approach involved utilizing environmentally-friendly materials that are both durable and offer long-term solutions. 

For instance, they constructed structures using biodegradable sacks filled with sand, which allowed for sediment deposition while promoting the natural growth of mangroves.

He observed that in areas where mangroves can naturally thrive, they created opportunities for mangrove tourism. This not only generated income for local communities and artisanal fishermen but also led to a shift in livelihoods from fishing to becoming tour guides and managing local culinary services.

Still, there were some aspects that have not been addressed. Indonesia hopes to collaborate with other entities in order to find solutions. 

Adi said: “Waste management is non-existent in those islands. The disposal method primarily involves dumping waste in designated areas and burning it, which contributes to harmful emissions.

“While attempts have been made to utilize renewable energy, the implementation has been sporadic, resembling “hit and run” projects. Currently, the focus is primarily on solar panel initiatives. A major concern with these projects lies in the maintenance and long-term sustainability of the solar panels.”

Top photo credit: iStock/ DLertchairit

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