This month, the world’s first known sub-regional fisheries management plan was successfully presented for adoption to the Coral Triangle member countries to support ecological, human, and governance priorities in Southeast Asia’s Sulu-Sulawesi Seascape—the world’s most biodiverse marine area. The plan was presented at the Coral Triangle Initiative for Coral Reefs, Fisheries, and Food Security’s (CTI-CFF) Fourteenth Senior Officials Meeting (SOM-14) in Manila, Philippines held on December 9-15, 2018.  The Coral Triangle Initiative Senior Official Meetings build and strengthen multilateral partnerships, in which Coral Triangle (CT6) governments (Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Solomon Islands, and Timor-Leste) jointly adopt and implement their commitments at the highest political levels and engage the broad range of stakeholders and partners to sustain marine and coastal resources by addressing crucial issues such as food security, climate change, and marine biodiversity. At the meeting, all six Coral Triangle member countries jointly endorsed the sub-regional plan. Sulu-Sulawesi Seascape members, Malaysia and Philippines, will adopt and implement the plan in 2019.

The Sulu-Sulawesi Seascape lies between Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines, covering 900,000 square kilometers. In addition to the importance that the Seascape serves for fisheries production, food security, and economic development in Southeast Asia, it is also a globally significant priority area for biodiversity conservation. It is the epicenter of global marine biodiversity, with the highest number of coral reef, marine fish, seagrass, and mangroves species in the world.

The Sulu-Sulawesi Seascape’s sub-regional fisheries management plan uses the Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries Management (EAFM). The plan was designed and will be implemented to link upwards with relevant international, regional, and other sub-regional fisheries management plans and environmental initiatives, as well as linked down to relevant national, provincial/state, and local fisheries management plans. Its cooperative design harnesses the power of both regional management actions and those of national and local efforts by providing a framework for multiple countries to work together to manage transboundary fisheries and marine resources.

The sub-regional management plan was developed around the vision that, “by 2030, the transboundary fisheries of the Sulu-Sulawesi Seas are ecologically healthy and deliver ecosystem services that provide equitable benefits to our people through collaborative, safe, and legal regional fisheries management.” It was developed though four years of sustained effort between regional fisheries management organizations and development partners, initiated in 2015 and finalized in July 2018. The plan draws off a 2015 draft developed by a USAID-supported CTI-CFF initiative. In 2017, the USAID Oceans and Fisheries Partnership (USAID Oceans) set out to update the plan and move it forward into implementation. Through USAID Oceans, regional stakeholders and governments have worked together through a multi-stakeholder, multi-year process to develop a collaborative, mutually beneficial plan that has the potential to influence the future of fisheries management in Southeast Asia and beyond.