Marine endangered species (MES) such as dugongs, dolphins and sea turtles, are keystone species in the coastal waters and thereby stand for a healthy ecosystem where they inhabit. MES are iconic species loved by the public, not only because of ecological and economic importance, but also because they easily tackle human’s feeling and fascinate and intrigue people by charming elegant appearance and friendly behavior in general. MES such as dugongs, dolphins and sea turtles are highly migratory, facing common threats, and require similar methods to research. This calls for regional joint efforts and cooperation to support effective conservation of MES and the healthy ecosystem.
Since 2015, experts from China, Thailand and Malaysia have been jointly leading the implementation of regional cooperation on MES research, with supports from the Regional Office for the Western Pacific (WESTPAC) of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO and the China-ASEAN Maritime Cooperation Fund. Partners within this cooperation also come from Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia and Sri Lanka. Other countries, such as Viet Nam, the Philippines, Laos and Myanmar, and other regional organization such as the Partnership for Environmental Management in the Seas of East Asia (PEMSEA), have expressed their interests in such cooperation.
The MES cooperation aims to establish a long term and regular regional mechanism and conduct relevant research activities to provide expertise for effective protection of MES in the tropical Asia. The MES cooperation plans to integrate and empower the traditional labor intensive methods with modern technologies such as marine bioacoustics, unmanned aero vehicles (UAV) and surface boats (USV), for research of MES. The project expect to build a network for research and protection of MES in the tropical Asia, improve the research capacity for MES in the region, enrich the knowledge on MES in the region, and promote the conservation of MES and marine biodiversity in the region. During the initial phase, the MES cooperation takes three sites from Thailand and Malaysia as demo. And candidate sites have also been discussed and proposed for application in later phase.