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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.

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

The Fifth Meeting of the Project Steering Committee 

The Project Coordinating Unit (PCU) of the Fisheries Refugia organized the 5th Project Steering Committee (PSC5) Meeting on 3 September 2021 to update the work progress, including policy decisions to support the project’s implementation, financial and budget plan for 2022. The meeting is a virtual meeting via Zoom Platform. Fifty-seven participants from 6 participating countries, including SEAFDEC senior officers, project Task Manager from UNEP, and the PCU staff, attended the meeting.

Mr. Nguyen Thanh Binh, the national focal point of Viet Nam, was elected as a new chairperson, and Mrs. Iswari Ratna Astuti, the national focal point of Indonesia, was the vice-chairperson for this PSC5 meeting. Mr. Ngurah N. Wiadnyana, the chairperson of the Fourth Meeting of the Scientific and Technical Committee (RSTC4), presented the highlight of the RSTC4 Report. The project achievements were highlight via the URL: 

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.


Figure: Credit to SDF/Thailand  


Fisheries Refugia (FR) is a novel fisheries resources management approach to the identification and designation of priority areas in which to integrate fisheries and habitat management in the context of maintaining fish stock and critical habitats as satisfying the fishing community, social needs now and futures. The approach needs a good platform for building partnerships, enhancing communication and engagement of stakeholders, finding local and scientific-based knowledge, and put in place an effective integration of fisheries and habitat management. In some cases, the management of FR may include the transboundary fish stock or shared stocks issues in which cooperation among relevant states is needed to take into accounts.

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 of the 4th Regional Scientific and Technical Committee Meeting (RSTC4)

SEAFDEC/PCU organized the 4th Regional Scientific and Technical Committee Meeting (RSTC4) via Zoom Platform on July 22nd, 2021. The RSTC4 aims to harness the national scientific and technical expertise and knowledge required to inform the policy, legal and institutional reforms for fisheries refugia management in the South China Sea and the Gulf of Thailand. The RSTC4 was attended by National Scientific and Technical Focal Points from 6 participating countries, regional experts, scientists from national institutions, and SEAFDEC/Training Department. A total of 43 participants, including 21 females and 22 males.

A total of 70 activities at national and regional levels, implemented from 2020 to June 2021, are summarized. It highlights the achievements of the project implementation, particularly the planned outputs such as seven fisheries profiles, revision of fisheries law, regulation, fisheries management plan, strategic plan, and adoption of the Regional Action Plan for Short mackerel. Significantly, two adopted fisheries refugia in Cambodia together with a total of 5 tentative fisheries refugia in Malaysia (2), Thailand (2), and Cambodia (1). The activities-based progress in percentage and cumulative expenditure and co-financing to date from all executed partners are presented. 

A highlight of the project implementations are as follows:

1)  A total of 73 activities were conducted by six participating countries, namely Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, and Viet Nam. 





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).


Southeast Asia: Fish Bank of the World    

GEF-UNEP/SEAFDEC Fisheries Refugia Project

Photo: Credit to EARTH.COM (Rory Arnold).

The Southeast Asian region is bounded by two oceans between Indian Ocean on the west and the Pacific and also is located by major rivers, lakes, and seas where created the region’s aquatic ecosystems diversity and supply direct and indirect food of the world. The Southeast Asian region has been playing significant role in providing fish and fishery products to the global food fish supply. In the State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2020 (SOFIA 2020), FAO estimated that the global fishery production in 2018 was about 179 million tonnes (t) valued at USD 401 billion. Of this total, the Southeast Asian region contributed 46.53 million t or approximately 26.0%, valued at USD 51.80 billion or approximately 13% of the total value of the global fishery production. Based SEAFDEC Fishery Statistical Bulletin 2018 (SEAFDEC, 2020), fisheries production of Southeast Asia comes from three sub-sectors: marine capture fisheries, inland capture fisheries, and aquaculture. While aquaculture contributed about 54.0% of the region’s total fisheries production in terms of quantity in 2018, marine capture fisheries accounted for 39.0% and inland capture fisheries at 7.0%. In terms of value about 38.0% was contributed by aquaculture, 54.0% by marine capture fisheries, and 8.0 % by inland capture fisheries (Table 1). The tuna groups have been the most economically important marine species in terms of production value, and ranked the highest in value accounting for about 14.57% of the total production value in 2018

Table 1 Fisheries productions of the Southeast Asia (by sub-sector): Quantity (Q) in million metric tons and Value (V) in billion US$

Data supplied by the Fishery Statistical Bulletin of Southeast Asia 2018. Credit SEAFDEC 2020













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