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RIFE organized the NFRC3 in Bekasi, West Java, Indonesia 


Research Institute of Fish Resources Enhancement (RIFE) organized the Third Meeting of the National Fisheries Refugia Committee (NFRC3) in Bekasi, West Java, on 21 June 2022. The meeting was held attended by its members from RIFE, Center for Fisheries Research (CRF), Agency of Marine and Fisheries Research and Human Resources (AMFRHR), and Directorate General of Marine Spatial Management (DGMSM). Establish fisheries refugia in Indonesia following steps: identification of spawning habitats, ecological studies of target species, agreement with stakeholders, preparation of management plans, implementation of management, and evaluation. Identifying fisheries refugia areas considers ecological factors, fisheries resources, mangrove conditions, suitability and delineation of refuge zones, community socio-economics, stakeholders, and refugia management plans. Figure 1 shows the national log frame for the establishment and operation of the fisheries refugia system in Indonesia.


Project Coordination Unit of the SEAFDEC/UNEP/GEF Project on Establishing and Operation of a Regional System of Fisheries Refugia in the South China Sea and the Gulf of Thailand organized the Sixth Meeting of the Regional Scientific and Technical Committee (RSTC6) at SEAFDEC/Training Department (TD), Samutprakarn Thailand on 4-6 July 2022. The National Scientific and Technical Focal Point attended the meeting from six partner countries. The project's national focal points and the SEAFDEC/TD scientists also participated in the discussions. The RSTC6 finalized the progress works from six countries that align with the Results Framework objectives adopted by GEF/CEO. The main achievement of establishing 15 prioritized Fisheries Refugia Sites in six countries, in addition, to the effective management of critical threats to 15 fisheries refugia sites of about 1.36 million hectares (ha), is expected to be adopted. It is about five folds higher than the proposed refugia areas (269,500 ha) adopted by the GEF/CEO. The details of 15 fisheries refugia are in Table 1. 

Best Practices of the Fisheries Refugia Project – Philippines

Photo:  NFRDI, the Philippines 

The South China Sea is a global center of shallow-water marine biological diversity, supporting a significant world fishery that is important to food security and as a source of export income for, Southeast Asian countries. Landings from this area contribute approximately 10 percent of reported global fisheries production per annum.   In the Philippines, the SCS sub-region is among the most important fishing areas in the country as the volume of fish caught from this area of the archipelagoes is thought to contribute up to 20 percent of total annual fisheries production in the country, which employs roughly 5-6 million people.

The decadal rates of decline in a total area of critical habitats such as seagrass, coral reefs, and mangroves are currently estimated at 30%, 16%, and 16%, respectively. Fishing contributes to the loss and degradation of seagrass and coral reefs habitats. The national-level activities of this project in the Philippines will make a significant contribution to the enhancement of the scientific, institutional, and policy basis required to reduce the rates of loss of globally essential habitats and biodiversity due to fishing.

The focus of the refugia is to identify and designate priority areas where the integration of fisheries and habitat management can be applied. The fisheries refugia concept emphasizes the quality of the different habitats and their essential function in the life-cycle of the other fished species. Fisheries refugia address recruitment overfishing and growth overfishing and protecting the habitat. Thus, refugia's protection and management efforts are on the habitat and fish resources and not just to declare close fishing either temporally or spatially of a particular fishing grounds for other purposes.

Identifying priority fisheries refugia in the Philippines was done by reviewing the list of sites about the distribution and abundance of fish eggs and larvae based on studies and information conducted in the South China Sea and through workshop consultations. Through a series of stakeholder consultations, three priority sites were agreed to be included in the regional system of fisheries refugia. The final priority fisheries refugia sites selected for the Philippines are as follows:

  • Bolinao, Pangasisnan
  • Masinloc Zambales
  • Coron, Palawan

SEAFDEC-PCU organized the PSC7 Ad-hoc Meeting

The SEAFDEC/Project Coordination Unit (PCU) organized the 7th Ad-hoc Meeting of the Project Steering Committee (PSC7 Ad-hoc) on 27 May 2022. The meeting is one of the regional programs under the SEAFDEC/UNEP/GEF Project on Establishment and Operation of a Regional System of Fisheries Refugia in the South China Sea and the Gulf of Thailand. As project steering committee members, all national focal points and the national scientific and technical committee attended the meeting. Ms. Isabelle Vanderbeck: the project task manager from UNEP, Mr. Isara Chanrachkij, Head of Project Planning and Management Division from SEAFDEC Training Department, and Mr. Worawit Wanchanna, Policy and Program Coordinator from SEAFDEC Secretariat, also attended the meeting. The meeting updated the progress of national and regional activities, especially on the establishments of the fisheries refugia, legislation/fishery law reform in supporting the management of established fisheries refugia, the adoption of the regional guidelines on indicators for sustainable management of fisheries refugia, and financial and co-financing from partners. The meeting acknowledges the progress report, even though the COVID-19 pandemic impact for more than two years, from 2020 to early 2022, caused the project activities had been delayed in some countries. 

Highlights of the Sixth Ad-hoc Meeting of the Project Steering Committee

@ updated 13 December 2021

 The Sixth Ad-hoc Meeting of the Project Steering Committee, a regular regional meeting under the SEAFDEC/UNEP/GEF Project on Establishment and Operation of a Regional System of Fisheries Refugia in the South China Sea and the Gulf of Thailand, was organized via the Zoom platform on 30 November 2021. The main objectives of the meeting are to discuss the 3rd Budget Revision as of 30 September 2021 and finalize the costed work plans for 2022. In addition, the project steering committee will finalize the audit firms for the financial statement audit for 2021 and 2022. Twenty participants from 6 participating countries, including SEAFDEC senior officers, and the PCU staff, attended the meeting. Mr. Nguyen Thanh Binh, the national focal point of Viet Nam, concurrently a chairperson of the Project Steering Committee for 2021, led the discussion with support from the meeting secretariat, Dr. Somboon Siriraksophon.

Integration of habitat conservation into fishery management in the South China Sea areas enhanced via the fisheries refugia approach

In the South China Sea area, the integration of habitat and biodiversity conservation into fishery management and practices has been improved through the efforts of concerned communities and governments. This approach is made possible under the Project “Establishment and Operation of a Regional System of Fisheries Refugia in the South China Sea and the Gulf of Thailand,” which received funding support from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and was implemented by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). With the main focus of establishing a regional system of fisheries management areas (fisheries refugia) in the South China Sea and the Gulf of Thailand, the project is executed by the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center (SEAFDEC) in partnership with the Fisheries Departments of the riparian countries of South China Sea, namely: Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, and Viet Nam. Initially planned for 48 months from January 2017 until December 2020, the Project duration was extended until December 2022 to complete the implementation of the Project activities that had been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic situation from January 2020 to March 2022.

Nevertheless, as of March 2022, the communities in the fisheries refugia sites of participating countries have been working towards enhancing the integration of habitat and biodiversity conservation into fishery management and practices of the identified aquatic species that the respective countries had identified economically important. The effective management of critical threats to 12 of 14 fisheries refugia sites of about 660,236 ha is expected to be adopted by 2022. It is about 2.5 folds higher than the proposed refugia areas adopted by the GEF. The project results can restore fish stocks and habitats, essential parts of the marine ecosystem, particularly to the SDG 14.2 on sustainably managing and protecting marine and coastal ecosystems to avoid significant adverse impacts. In addition, the results also support SDG14.4 for effectively regulating harvesting and ending overfishing, illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, and destructive fishing practices and implement science-based management plans to restore fish stocks in the shortest time the SDG14.4.

Improve the understanding among stakeholders of the ecosystem approach for establishment and management of fisheries Refugia in the Philippines


Effective fisheries management has always been a challenge, especially in complex multi-species, multi-gear fisheries. Traditional stock-based approaches have been mainly practical, with management measures often not taking other essential aspects of the fishing into account. As fisheries have declined over the past 30 years, the need for more effective and equitable management is increasingly evident in the Philippines. 

The ecosystem approach offers practical and effective means to manage fisheries more historically. It represents a move away from fisheries management that focuses on target species towards systems and decision-making processes that balance environmental,

Highlights the Results of the

Fifth Meeting of Regional Scientific and Technical Committee (RSTC5)

16-17 March 2022 

The 5th Regional Scientific and Technical Committee Meeting (RSTC5) was convened by the Project Coordination Unit on 16-17 March 2022; this is a virtual meeting via the Zoom platform. The meeting updated the progress on national and regional programs implemented as of 31 December 2021. The meeting discussed the progress works by each country's partners, recommendations from the Mid-term Review, the first draft guidelines on Indicators for sustainable management of fisheries refugia, the marine and coastal planning of six participating countries, the proposed regional training workshop on larval fish identification and early life history study, as well as the financial report as of 31 December 2021.


A Mid-Term Review of the SEAFDEC/UNEP/GEF Project: Establishment and Operation of a Regional System of Fisheries Refugia in the South China Sea and the Gulf of Thailand has been undertaken, consistent with the requirements of the GEF and UNEP by Dr. Peter Whalley between November 2021 and February 2022. The review is designed to inform stakeholders, including the GEF Agency and Executing Agency, on the levels of achievement of the project towards the delivery of the planned outputs and outcomes and provide suggestions to the Project on key activities that would assist enable the achievement of the overall planned objective.

Final Round Discussion Among Experts for Setting the Spiny Lobster and Tiger Prawn Refugia in Malaysia

Photo: DOF/Malaysia

Department of Fisheries Malaysia (DOF) organized a mini-seminar on establishing fisheries refugia for lobster in Tanjung Leman, Johor, and tiger prawn in Kuala Baram, Sarawak, from 30 March to 2 April 2021. The seminar was attended by 25 participants physically and virtually from fisheries research institutions, universities, marine parks, SEAFDEC/MFRDMD, and headquarters' senior officers (Appendix 1).













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