Five Countries Kick Off IKI Seagrass Ecosystems Project

Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, and Timor-Leste launch CMS initiative to protect and restore critical seagrass ecosystems through local monitoring and assessment, policy guidance, and conservation-enhancing startup businesses

Representatives from Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, and Timor-Leste came together with leading researchers and conservation experts to launch a new effort to protect and restore seagrass ecosystems. These coastal ecosystems have been disappearing due to human influence including overfishing, coastal development, and climate change. Globally, these ecosystems support nearly 3 billion people who rely on seagrass ecosystem services for food, income, protection from extreme weather, and valuable cultural significance.

Seagrass areas are also hotspots for biodiversity and mitigate climate change by sequestering carbon at twice the rate of terrestrial forests. To identify sustainable strategies for protecting and restoring these crucial ecosystems, the project will work closely with local communities in all five countries to design and implement monitoring and assessment programs, policy recommendations, and new start-up businesses that enhance conservation.

The project is led by the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) Memorandum of Understanding on the Conservation and Management of Dugongs and their Habitats Throughout their Range (Dugong MOU), which began the work of planning the project in 2017.

The project is part of the International Climate Initiative (IKI), supported by the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) on the basis of a decision adopted by the German Bundestag. The Dugong MOU is part of CMS Office – Abu Dhabi, which is hosted by Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD), and serves as the only regional hub for the Convention outside its headquarters in Bonn, Germany.

The event took place 28-30 January in Manado and was hosted by Rumah YAPEKA, a nonprofit conservation and community development organization, with the support of the Indonesian Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries. YAPEKA Executive Director Akbar Ario Digdo explained that the project aligns with key priorities for local communities.

“In Indonesia, our food security depends on the health of our seagrass,” Didgo said. “This project gives us an opportunity to work together with experts and regional networks to exchange knowledge about how to live in harmony with seagrass ecosystems. The clear tone of this project is community-based, focusing on participatory planning and incorporating traditional knowledge. We feel honored being chosen as the host for the official start of this important project.”

The kick-off meeting began the process of developing project-wide and country-specific action plans to protect and restore seagrass ecosystems through community-led activities. National meetings in each country will take place later this year.  Contributing partners include experts in dugongs, seagrass, marine biodiversity, conservation policy, and social enterprise investment.

“We will be introducing some exciting new approaches, such as using drones to monitor seagrass beds and helping local residents launch sustainable businesses like growing spirulina and developing homestay ecotourism companies,” said Project Manager Nick Piludu. “Most importantly, the project is designed to grow from local needs and priorities, so that each site in each country will have a plan that is tailored to them.”  

For more information, contact the IKI Seagrass Ecosystem Services Project Manager,