ASEAN Regional Centre for Biodiversity Conservation

  >> Marine Protected Areas In Southeast Asia



  1. Scope and Methodologies of the Review
  2. Summary of Results
  3. Priority Marine Areas
  4. Priority Actions and Recommendations

  Brunei Darussalam

MPA List



Hazel O. Arceo and Catherine Cheung

(Refer to Map 7 of Appendix for MPA sites and other relevant areas)

5.1 Coastal and Marine Ecosystems
With a coastline of 2,278 km, several large estuarine and delta systems, and numerous offshore islands, Myanmar possesses a considerable diversity of coastal wetland habitats, including coral reefs, sandy beaches and mudflats (MacKinnon 1997). Several major rivers including the Ganges in the north and Irrawaddy, Sittang and Salween in the Gulf of Martaban have created soft shores where mangroves develop extensively. Total mangrove area covers about 4,219 km2, and only 0.6% is protected (MacKinnon 1997).

Coral reefs are only found away from river deltas and mainly around islands along the southern coast, particularly in the Mergui Archipelago. This string of over 800 islands has not been studied properly since the 1800s (IUCN/UNEP 1988). Coral reefs are also found around the Coco Islands north of the Andaman Islands of India.

5.2 Significant Species
There are no data on the ecology of coral reefs but 61 species in 31 genera have been described in a study (Kyi 1985, in ICRI 1997), suggesting a moderate diversity. More recently, Spalding (2001) reports that there are around 97 scleractinian coral species and 67 hermatypic coral genera. Twenty-four mangrove and three seagrass species have been described in Myanmar (Spalding 2001).

Four species of marine turtles have been recorded in the country: Green, Olive Ridley, Hawksbill and the very rare Leatherback. The Estuarine Crocodile (Crocodylus porosus) and the river terrapin (Batagur baska) occur in the Irrawaddy Delta although the latter’s population has declined to possible extinction. Dugongs are rare and are mostly found west of the Irrawaddy Delta and further north of the main

5.3 Legislation and Management Framework
There is no current legislation for establishing marine protected areas (IUCN/WCMC 1992). The titles used in the protected area list supplied by the Forest Department (including their brief descriptions) are as follows (from Clarke 1999):

• National park. Maintained for biodiversity conservation and representativeness. Firm management control. No settlement or resource harvesting allowed. Visitors permitted.

• Marine national park. The same as national park but in marine, island and coastal environments.

• Wildlife sanctuary. Species conservation. No settlement or resource harvesting allowed. Visitors permitted.

• Bird Sanctuary. The same as wildlife sanctuary but birdlife conservation is paramount.

• Wildlife Park. Wild animals held in captivity and in the wild but on a fairly small range. For recreation and education. No settlement or resource harvesting allowed. Visitors encouraged.

• Mountain Park. Maintained to conserve landscapes, geomorphological features, and sites of religious significance. No settlement allowed. Visitors permitted, including pilgrims who are allowed to harvest limited supplies of natural resources – bamboo shoots, mushrooms and edible fruits.

• Elephant range. A means of conserving the Asian elephant. Can include villages, and may overlap with other protected areas although the only one that exists at present does not overlap. Covers a range over which elephant herds move.

• ‘Protected area’. A misnomer adopted by the Planning and Statistics Division of the Forest Department, which failed to consult WNCD when drawing up the declarations. This is to be corrected, and the areas are likely to become wildlife sanctuaries.

The enactment of the Myanmar Fisheries Law in 1990 clearly prohibits the use of explosives, poisons and toxic chemicals, harmful agents and damaging gears, and thus prohibits fisheries that can destroy coral reefs (ICRI 1997).

The National Commission for Environmental Affairs (NCEA) is the focal point for all environmental affairs, including management (ICRI 1997). It is mandated to advise the Cabinet on formulating policy, issue guidelines for implementing policy, guide and advise regulatory agencies on legal matters, and formulate policies and strategies that take into account environmental and developmental priorities (Clarke 1999). Four specialised committees report to the Commission:

• Committee on Conservation of Natural Resources.

• Committee on Control of Pollution.

• Committee on Research, Education and Information.

• Committee on International Cooperation.

One other technical department is the Ministry of Forestry, whose mandate includes governing all natural protected areas, both terrestrial and marine, and biodiversity.

5.4 Extent of Existing Marine Protected Areas System
There are two declared wildlife sanctuaries for turtle protection in the country: Thamihla Kyun or Diamond Island (88 ha) and Moscos Islands (4924 ha), but the marine habitats are not protected. There is also one mangrove forest reserve, Wunbaik (22,919 ha). Lampi Island Marine National Park (112.5 km2) was established in 1996 to preserve the island’s vast flora and fauna and coral reefs.

5.5 Proposed Marine Protected Areas
Three wildlife sanctuaries are being recommended for establishment, namely, Meinmahla Kyun, Kadonlay Kyun and Letkokken Islands at the mouth of the Irrawaddy Delta, for the protection of turtles, crocodiles and shorebirds (Wells 1988; Scott 1989). There are also proposals to extend Thamihla Kyun and Moscos Island Wildlife Sanctuaries to include their surrounding marine areas and coral reefs.

5.6 Evaluation of Marine Protected Areas - Status, Threats and Management
Little is known about the status of the marine environment of the country. The 90% loss of turtle nesting population at Thamihla Kyun and the serious decline in dugong and river terrapin populations suggest overexploitation. While mangrove cutting and encroachment by shrimp farming have degraded some of the mangrove and estuarine areas (IUCN/UNEP 1988), dynamite fishing and sedimentation due to upland logging have disturbed the coral reefs. Dynamite fishing, mainly by foreign poachers because explosives are not readily available to Myanmar fishers, anchor damage, trampling, overfishing and over-harvesting have seriously degraded coral reefs and associated flora and fauna (ICRI 1997; see also Figure 5.1). Unconfirmed reports reveal harvesting of live coral (for marine aquarium) and of coral skeletons (for use as souvenirs or medicine). The offshore reefs at the southern end of the Mergui Archipelago are already exploited for dive tourism from Thailand.

The government of Myanmar has encouraged rapid exploitation of natural resources. When the universities were closed, many natural scientists became involved in the timber and marine products trade to survive. Large government joint ventures with foreign companies have been formed to exploit commercial fisheries. There is little support from the government for conservation.

5.7 Gaps in the Existing Marine Protected Area System
Status and Inventory. Gaps in the existing system coincide closely with the lack of inventory data of sites. Lack of information on the marine flora and fauna as well as lack of trained divers to conduct surveys, especially in inaccessible areas, have hindered the effective management of resources (ICRI 1997). Most of the islands of the Mergui Archipelago have not been surveyed although they are believed to have substantial coral reefs (UNEP/IUCN 1988). Cheduba Island and the islands off Akyab in the north, and the islands between Thamihla Kyun and the Andaman Islands are also not well studied.

Enforcement. Political instability has basically made the management of protected areas difficult. This has hindered progress in establishing more protected areas and in enforcing existing legislation (Clarke 1999).

Public Awareness and Support. Rural inhabitants in general are not in sympathy with government attempts to manage protected areas and conserve biodiversity, or are completely unaware of why these initiatives are being taken. Many groups are downright antagonistic towards any government action (Clarke 1999).

5.8 Priority Sites
Based on the limited information available, the Lampi Islands and the Mergui Archipelago further north have been selected as regional priority areas whereas Thamihla Kyun and Moscos Islands warrant national priority.


5.9 Priority Actions

A. Secure technical and financial assistance from experienced countries for institutional strengthening and capacity building of the Myanmar government.The government of Myanmar is many years behind its neighbours in recognizing and meeting the need to identify and preserve natural resources.

B. Conduct major surveys to determine where various ecosystems are found and the status of each. Surveys should focus on little known areas, especially the Mergui Archipelago, to determine its conservation potential.

C. Train local scientists to survey and monitor coral reefs and other marine environments. The university system in Myanmar was closed for several years, and many well-trained scientists have already retired.

D. Organise training courses and study tours for MPA planners and managers to neighbouring countries with established MPAs.

UP-MSI, ABC, ARCBC, DENR, ASEAN, 2002. Marine Protected Areas in Southeast Asia. ASEAN Regional Centre for Biodiversity Conservation, Deaprtment of Environement and Natural Resources, Los Baños, Laguna, Philippines.142 pp., 10 maps

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