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South China Sea accord

  • Written by Cristina Lee-Pisco
  • Published in Top Stories
  • Read: 265

COUNTRIES bordering the South China Sea have agreed to establish a regional system to safeguard almost two million hectares of the region’s most critical marine and coastal ecosystems for fish production, nutritional security and livelihoods.

The new initiative – called the “Establishment and Operation of a Regional System of Fisheries Refugia in the South China Sea and Gulf of Thailand Sea” – aims to work with communities and governments to integrate habitat and biodiversity conservation considerations into fishery management and practices.
   
It is financed by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and implemented by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
   
The South China Sea is the global center of shallow water tropical marine biodiversity, however the loss of coastal habitats in this marine basin are high and increasing.
   
Each decade, 30 percent of seagrass, 16 percent of mangrove, and 16 percent of live coral cover is lost due to unsustainable use by the more than 270 million people that live along its coast.
   
Small-scale inshore fishing pressure is a significant cause of the degradation and habitat loss.
   
Declining fisheries resources has led to the adoption of unsustainable fishing methods and gear, such as the use of explosives and poisons, in order to maintain catch and increase incomes in the short-term.
   
Isabelle van der Beck of the United Nations Environment Programme said the initiative would benefit millions of people at the highest risk globally from the impacts of increasing rates of coastal and marine environmental degradation in an area essential to the economic and political stability of the burgeoning Southeast Asian region.
   
“Safeguarding habitats critical to the life cycles of important fisheries resources will not only improve and secure biodiversity but also build resiliency for those who rely on the ocean for their food and livelihood,” van der Beck said.