The IOSEA region is host to six species of marine turtles: Loggerhead (Caretta caretta), Olive ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea), Green (Chelonia mydas), Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata), Leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea), and Flatback (Natator depressus).
Across the region, there are several examples of decades-long conservation programmes whose management interventions have contributed to stable or increasing turtle populations. In addition, several countries can boast significant turtle populations that, if not still thriving, have remained resilient in the face of increasingly diverse and escalating human pressures.
However, many of the region’s marine turtle populations have declined significantly, some having been almost eliminated. Various factors are thought to have contributed to unsustainable turtle mortality, including: widespread and intense exploitation of eggs, meat and shell, fisheries-related mortality (by-catch), destruction and degradation of critical habitats, pollution, climate change, and inappropriate management practices. Consequently, where marine turtles were once a substantial economic and cultural resource in many parts of the IOSEA region, costly management interventions are now required to protect marine turtles and their habitats.
Marine turtles depend on diverse habitats at different phases of their life cycle, including suitable beaches for nesting and coastal waters for foraging and reproduction. Yet the importance of many of these coastal habitats – critical not only for marine turtles, but for a wide range of species as well as ecosystem services critical for human wellbeing – is often not recognised.
A lack of awareness and understanding of the ecological and other values of these unique habitats may lead to inappropriate development of areas at the expense of coastal ecosystem integrity, as well as the conservation of marine turtles. In some areas marine turtles and their habitats may be protected on paper, through appropriate national legislation and regulations, yet the implementation of adequate conservation measures on the ground is often lacking. In either case, there are adverse impacts for the coastal communities that rely on the services provided by these ecosystems.
Protecting areas critical for the region’s marine turtles will simultaneously yield a range of socio-economic benefits for people. Maintaining coastal water quality, protecting habitat used as nursery grounds for seafood species that support commercial and subsistence fisheries, and generally protecting mangrove and reef habitat in a way that reduces threats from coastal hazards – such as erosion, flooding, and strong wave action – is good for humans as well as turtles. [Top]
What does the IOSEA Marine Turtle Site Network aim to achieve?
The overarching goal of the IOSEA Marine Turtle Site Network is to promote the long-term conservation of sites of regional value for benefit of marine turtles and their habitats. Its main objectives are to:
(i) Provide a regional mechanism to enhance the conservation of sites of importance to marine turtles;
(ii) Derive ecological and governance benefits that are not possible to achieve by managing individual sites in isolation;
(iii) Contribute, through enhanced regional conservation of marine turtles and their habitats, to more effective maintenance of ecosystem services that support human well-being; and
(iv) Catalyse opportunities for participatory resource management and community development centred on marine turtles, through network-wide information exchange. [Top]
What can a network accomplish that protecting individual sites in isolation may not?
The IOSEA Marine Turtle Site Network will enhance local-to-global scale recognition of the importance of the networked sites, on the strength of a credible selection process. This in turn should catalyse increased support and resources for more effective site-based and regional management. When fully functional, the network will coordinate available financial, technical and human resources to conduct common training, facilitate exchange of information on best practices, carry out joint research and monitoring, undertake performance evaluation, and encourage adaptive management. In so doing, it will optimize the use of limited resources available for mutually-supportive governance.
The careful selection and inclusion of network sites will help to mtigate adverse socio-economic impacts over a wider geographic scale. Activities incompatible with marine turtle conservation cannot be eliminated entirely, but such activities may be restricted at selected network sites in a way that diffuses adverse impacts across the wider region.
The network seeks to protect ecological connectivity between habitats through strategic spacing and shape of sites; and to optimise regional resistance and resilience of marine turtle habitats to environmental stress. This will be achieved by including and managing sites containing marine turtle habitats necessary for different life cycle phases, by protecting multiple examples of each habitat. [Top]
How did the IOSEA Site Network come to be developed?
The concept of a network of sites of importance for marine turtles was under development for several years, having been introduced initially in 2004 at the second Meeting of the IOSEA Signatory States. The proposal was developed and refined by the Secretariat in close consultation the Signatory States, Advisory Committee and other experts; and benefitted from an open dialogue that served to reconcile divergent views about several aspects of the proposal, including: what would the governance structure of the network entail, how would sites be evaluated for inclusion and ultimately be chosen, and what additional obligations, if any, would be required of governments. A concerted effort was made in 2011 to present a coherent vision of the objectives of the network, together with a realistic picture of its operation in the short to medium-term. [Top]
Are there other similar initiatives in the region?
No, as far as marine turtles are concerned, the Site Network is unique in the IOSEA region. However, there are many other initiatives and programmes at various levels that provide for the designation and protection of sites of importance for biodiversity, including those of the World Heritage Convention, UNESCO’s Man and Biosphere Programme, the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, the Programme for the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden (PERSGA), and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Also, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is working to identify ecologically or biologically significant marine areas (EBSAs), which may have some relevance to the network. IOSEA can benefit from the experience and strengths and weaknesses of these other approaches, even if some of them may appear to be far removed from marine turtle conservation. [Top]
What are the obligations of countries whose sites become part of the network?
Countries will be invited to nominate turtle nesting beaches and adjacent areas considered to be important sites for marine turtles and, in doing so, will hopefully have an added incentive to secure additional resources and protection at the sites. However, provision of additional resources is not a binding commitment or obligation upon joining the network.
The need to prepare a baseline site assessment is the only fundamental requirement associated with site nomination. This exercise will be extremely valuable in and of itself, especially if one has never been conducted previously. In addition to helping identify constraints and management gaps, the assessment will lend credibility to the site selection process and will help to match potential donors to specific site needs. [Top]
What is the legal status of the Network sites? How does this work with local and national legislation?
The Network is established under the IOSEA Marine Turtle Memorandum of Understanding, which is a non-binding instrument concluded under the aegis of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS). All of the network sites will be nominated by Signatory States, which participate voluntarily in this regional initiative as a way to improve coordination of their individual efforts, as well as to bring greater attention to the conservation status of particular sites.
It has been agreed that nominating a site to the network should not impose any new binding financial commitments or create any new legal obligations on Signatory States. All existing local, regional and national legislation for marine turtle conservation, marine protected areas and other applicable laws will continue to take precedence. [Top]
How are sites nominated to be part of the network?
Government agencies nominate sites to become part of the IOSEA Marine Turtle Site Network by addressing a covering letter to the IOSEA Secretariat, accompanied by the required Site Information Sheet(s). A sample form letter has been prepared which Signatory State Focal Points may use for this purpose. [Top]
Why must a Site Information Sheet be completed?
The completion of a site information sheet is an important prerequisite for the nomination of a site to the network. It provides the justification for a site to be included in the network and is the basis upon which the merits of including a site will be evaluated by the IOSEA Advisory Committee. The sheet includes baseline information on the site; describes the current and/or planned management framework; and identifies any resources already committed or foreseen for management of the site.
The exercise of preparing such an assessment will be extremely valuable in and of itself, especially if one has never been conducted previously for the site. In addition to helping identify current constraints and management gaps, it will lend credibility to the site selection process and will help to match potential donors to specific site needs. A well-prepared site information sheet can also be used to assess management progress at regular intervals.
All site information sheets will be compiled in a searchable database that will be maintained on the IOSEA website for public viewing, thus providing another vehicle for publicising the importance of the site to the international community. [Top]
If I am interested in proposing a site for the network what should I do?
Interested nongovernmental organizations, academic institutions and the private sector are encouraged to suggest sites for possible formal nomination by governments, and may assist governmental bodies in the preparation of the Site Information Sheet. However, the formal submission must be made by the national IOSEA Focal Point for the country in whose jurisdiction the site is located.
It is recommended that individuals or organisations wishing to facilitate the nomination of a particular site prepare at least a first draft of a Site Information Sheet, and consult with their respective IOSEA Focal Point about the feasibility of going forward with a formal nomination. [Top]
Can I prepare a site nomination in Arabic or French?
Yes. It is foreseen that Arabic and French translations of the Site Information template will be prepared, to make it easier for some countries to prepare submissions in their native language. However, a complete English translation must accompany any submissions prepared in Arabic for French, in order to facilitate the work of the Advisory Committee. [Top]
When can site nominations be submitted?
Nominations may be submitted to the Secretariat at any time, at least six months before the Meeting of Signatory States. (The next meeting is likely to be scheduled in the first half of 2014.) This is the minimum time needed by the Advisory Committee to review and comment on the nominations, suggest any necessary amendments or improvements, and make recommendations to the Meeting of IOSEA Signatory States for inclusion or rejection based on the results of their assessment. The Secretariat will circulate the Advisory Committee’s recommendations to IOSEA Focal Points no later than three months prior to the regular Meeting of the Signatory States. [Top]
How exactly is the Advisory Committee involved in the Site Network?
The IOSEA Advisory Committee is tasked with evaluating all site nominations against a suite of criteria, in order to evaluate nominations of new sites; to re-assess, in the longer-term, the rationale for continued inclusion of existing sites; and to conduct gap analyses for the overall network to identify priorities for inclusion of additional sites.
The Committee may call upon independent reviewers / local experts to assist in its evaluations, in cases where specialized expertise and knowledge about a particular site is lacking or where additional capacity is needed to deal with the number of submissions.
Whereas site nominations may be submitted at any time, the Advisory Committee will review them only two times per year, for sake of efficiency and to facilitate relative comparisons across sites. These reviews will take place approximately 12 months and six months prior to the regular Meeting of IOSEA Signatory States, unless there are compelling reasons to adjust this timetable.
The Advisory Committee will comment on the nominations, suggest any necessary amendments or improvements, and make recommendations to the Meeting of IOSEA Signatory States for inclusion or rejection based on the results of their assessment. The Secretariat will circulate the Advisory Committee’s recommendations to IOSEA Focal Points no later than three months prior to the regular Meeting of the Signatory States.
Within the framework of the IOSEA Technical Support / Capacity-building programme, the Advisory Committee may offer expert advice/technical support (e.g. at selected sites) upon request of Signatory States; and may be called upon to make recommendations for improving the operation of the site network. [Top]
What role do IOSEA Signatory States play in regard to the Site Network?
Signatory States have multiple roles to play in relation to the further development and implementation of the Site Network. They develop and/or solicit proposals for site nominations, beginning with the careful preparation of Site Information Sheets), in consultation with other interested partners. Focal Points are encouraged to discuss and coordinate nominations at the sub-regional level to facilitate coherence within the network. Focal Points are responsible for formally submitting to the Secretariat the nominations of sites located in their jurisdiction.
Collectively the Signatory States decide whether or not to accept sites for inclusion in the network, taking into account recommendations made by the Advisory Committee. Each Meeting of the Signatory States will have on its agenda the consideration of any new candidate sites, and will either endorse or reject the inclusion of a given site. When relevant, rejections may be accompanied by specific recommendations about what would be needed for the nomination to be approved.
In the longer term, it may be useful to encourage a subregional approach to both nomination and evaluation, in order to promote interaction among neighbouring countries as well as familiarity with the sites in question.
Once a site has been formally accepted, each Signatory State is expected to make arrangements for the inauguration of newly listed sites, in collaboration with the Secretariat. They are encouraged to examine the potential for collaboration (e.g. twinning/sister-sites) with other sites, with a view to enhancing coordination and cost-effectiveness of conservation efforts. Signatory States are also expected to consider the need and possibility to enhance the protection status of listed sites; and are encouraged to examine the possibility of increasing the funding available for the development of site management plans, as well as conservation interventions and research activities.
Finally, the Signatory States have an important role to play in keeping under review the operation of the site network, and to consider proposals for further improvement. [Top]
What role does the Secretariat have to play?
The Secretariat will continue to advise the Signatory States in the preparation and revision of site network proposals, and will coordinate the review process for the IOSEA Site Network. The Secretariat will develop and issue IOSEA certification for newly listed sites and will cooperate with Signatory States in inauguration activities.
The Secretariat will develop and maintain a dedicated section of the IOSEA Website to publicise listed sites, including mention of additional resource needs; and it will encourage interested partners to suggest additional sites for inclusion in the network. The Secretariat will also work with the Advisory Committee to develop technical/training materials suitable for use at network sites.
Finally, the Secretariat will work with a Site Network Steering Committee to seek additional funding for implementation of activities at individual sites as well as network-wide interventions. [Top]
What are the criteria for selecting sites for inclusion in the Network?
The selection criteria are divided into four categories: Ecological/ Biological, Governance-related, Socio-economic / Political, and Network-wide Ecological. A weighting scheme is use to differentiate the relative importance of the various criteria. The maximum value assigned to each criterion determines its relative importance in the overall rating. Points are awarded against each criterion, up to its maximum value. For a site to be recommended for inclusion in the network, it must obtain a minimum score against each of the four categories, as well as a minimum total score over all categories combined. This design is intended to allow sites that might be deficient in some areas still to be included in the network on the basis of their strengths in other areas, while setting a minimum standard for inclusion.
The thresholds are also designed so that sites containing nesting beaches and sites containing other habitats will be able to meet minimum thresholds. A separate IOSEA Site Network Evaluation Criteria paper describes these criteria and the rationale behind them in more detail and defines, for each criterion, the scale that evaluators will use to assess the merits of a particular submission. [Top]
Why are the Evaluation Criteria so complicated?
Considerable thinking has gone into the development and refinement of the criteria, which are intended to help to assure minimum standards and add credibility to the selection process. That so much effort has done into their design is a reflection of the importance attached to ensuring that the site network meets rigorous ecological and socio-economic criteria, and promotes effective governance of individual sites and the network at large. Above all, the robustness of the criteria should help to secure confidence among the donor community of the likelihood of success of initiatives conducted at individual sites, as well as network-wide activities.
At the end of the day, it is the Advisory Committee that will use and apply the criteria. While proponents of site nominations should be aware of the Evaluation Criteria, which have a relationship to the information provided in the Site Information Sheets, they need not concern themselves too much with “self-evaluation”. The evaluation exercise will require expertise and general knowledge that is unlikely to be found in any one individual or Signatory State. [Top]
Are the Evaluation Criteria fixed in stone, or can they be adjusted over time?
The Evaluation Criteria should continue to be regarded as a working document, subject to adjustment and further refinement based on experience gained as they are actually used. While earlier versions have been tested on a limited number of sample sites, closer scrutiny with full proposals is certain to reveal (hopefully minor) inconsistencies, discrepancies and other issues that will need to be addressed on a case-by-case basis. [Top]
How might the IOSEA Marine Turtle Site Network be funded?
The structure and operation of the IOSEA Marine Turtle Site Network will depend largely on the financial resources made available for its development. Three different implementation scenarios have been developed, based on the level of funding that is actually realised. A Steering Committee has been established to seek financial support for the implementation of the Site Network and to consider other operational issues that may arise inter-sessionally. Among other things, it is hoped that this steering committee will help identify funding opportunities and assist in the drafting of funding proposals to potential donors.
The Site Network concept paper calls for IOSEA Signatory States and the Secretariat to seek up to five years of funding to support the initial formation of the site network, after which time the sites would be expected to be self-sufficient or maintained through direct government and other funding.
Capital outlays would be expected to be highest in Years 1 and 2, and substantially less in Years 3-5, to cover ongoing operational costs. Funding needs at site level will differ from site to site, and country to country, depending on local circumstances. In some countries, a site may already have protected status and conservation programmes and infrastructure in place, and will require funding only to meet incremental improvements. In other countries, a site may be designated that has never before benefited from protection, thus requiring substantial investment.
Conceptually, there are at least two ways of presenting the site network proposal to interested donors and partners:
(1) The proposal could be offered as a complete package to a major donor that is able to provide sufficient funding to cover the network development and coordination costs, as well as the operating costs of a certain number of sites (backed by matching funds, as necessary). Administration and disbursement of funds would be handled centrally, so that the donor would need to have only one point of reference. This approach may be attractive to donors that would like to support interventions in multiple countries, without necessarily having to administer the project funding through separate arrangements.
(2) Alternatively, multiple donors may be interested in and/or may have the means only to support activities in individual sites or countries, or certain aspects of implementation at particular sites. In this case, donors may prefer to deal directly with the site management, and each site will be responsible for the administration of funds received. To assure that funds are still available to cover the basic network development and coordination costs, a certain percentage of the site’s budget should be allocated to the coordinating body. In this way, individual sites can participate in and receive support from the network, while paying their fair share of the associated development and coordination costs.
These two approaches are not mutually exclusive, and the network could embrace both of them simultaneously. To complement the funds provided by major external donors, several sources of matching funds are envisaged: (1) voluntary contributions from interested governments, towards the overall operation of the site network (not necessarily linked to a particular site); (2) financial and in-kind contributions from a site’s host country; and (3) financial and/or in-kind contributions from interested non-governmental organizations, (particularly those already working in the area or at the site), private sector, academic and research institutions, and communities adjacent to the site. [Top]
In an ideal world, with no shortage of financial or human resources, what should a network site strive to achieve?
Under this scenario, significant resources would be available to implement activities at individual sites and network-wide. Ideally, institutional donors will be attracted to make a major investment in the development and operation of the network, by committing substantial resources towards network-wide coordination activities and fundamental site-based activities, including: infrastructure development, human resource development and capacity-building, conservation interventions, community engagement and information sharing, and networking among sites.
Initial funding would be used to improve network coordination and to implement management plans at selected sites -- including a budget for subsequent infrastructure and human resource development, and activities to address priority threats to marine turtles and their habitats. Depending on the nature of the site and the amount of funding available, the following site-based activities are envisaged:
What are the first steps needed to get the Site Network off the ground?
IOSEA Signatory States will be invited to submit proposals of candidate sites from which initially up to about ten regionally-balanced sites will be selected. The reason for initially limiting the number of sites included in the network is so that efforts are focused on establishing effective demonstration sites that can serve as models elsewhere. Through their national governments, NGOs (including environmental groups, academic institutions and the private sector) are welcome to suggest possible sites for formal nomination by IOSEA Signatory States, and to assist in the preparation of relevant documentation. [Top]
What happens after a site has become part of the IOSEA Site Network?
Each site will be inaugurated through a dedication ceremony, including provision of an IOSEA certificate to the Signatory State, as well as installation of appropriate signage identifying the site’s inclusion in the IOSEA Marine Turtle Site Network. A dedicated page for each site will be created on the IOSEA website to publicise its main features. Emphasis will be given to identifying, as concretely as possible, the particular resource needs of each site. It is hoped that this increased attention may lead to additional funding that can be made available for conservation and management interventions at the site.
Even in the absence of significant new funding, ties can be developed among network sites – for example by twinning pairs or larger numbers of ‘sister sites’. These sister sites can begin to coordinate their human, technical and financial resources with the aim of conducting collaborative staff training, outreach, monitoring, and management activities.
In the course of applying for inclusion in the network, a site manager and/or collaborators will have conducted basic field and desk research in order to prepare the IOSEA Site Network Information Sheet. This will serve as a benchmark against which to measure progress and to guide adaptive management – with a goal of maintaining and augmenting the long-term site-specific and network-wide values of the site. Analyses of ecological gaps in the network will help to guide its systematic growth, to ensure that it is achieving the desired objectives.
If more funds become available, additional funding will be used to increase the networking of all sites through coordinated activities, including financial support to implement formal mechanisms for the coordination and sharing of technical, financial and human resources between subsets of sites in the network. Also under this scenario, new site management plans or improvements of existing plans will be developed for a number of ‘model’ sites. Available funding will also be used to undertake some prioritized interventions at these sites. [Top]
How does the IOSEA Site Network work with local communities?
The IOSEA Site Network acknowledges and gives value to the cultural and traditional importance of sites, and expects proponents to describe the involvement of local communities and indigenous people in the participatory management of the site, including in co-management activities, surveillance, enforcement and performance evaluation. Moreover, the network approach recognizes that private and/or public tenure or customary or traditional approaches do not necessarily require legislation to underpin them and that alternative forms of land/sea management may provide fully adequate protection of a site. [Top]
Is any guidance available to help direct and prioritise the nomination of sites?
There is a need to conduct national and regional-level gap analyses to establish national and regional priorities for the nomination of new sites for the network. The suite of Evaluation Criteria as well as the network’s overarching goal and objectives, provide a framework against which to identify gaps in the site network.
The process of identifying appropriate sites for nomination should be rigorous, country-driven and involve a wide range of stakeholders. One may make use of reviews already undertaken in other fora to begin to draw up master lists of candidate sites, for preliminary consideration. It has been suggested that the IOSEA Advisory Committee lead a process whereby a ‘master list’ of potential candidate sites is drawn up and tested against the Evaluation Criteria, in order to provide guidance to Signatory States as to which sites should receive active consideration. [Top]
How can the effectiveness of individual sites in the network be assessed?
Once the site network is operational, the effectiveness of management interventions can be monitored employing a modified version of a tool for “Reporting Progress at Protected Area Sites” (Stolton, 2007). Performance assessments for the network and for individual sites should be conducted according to an established schedule and methodology. Monitoring data and other information from network sites should be shared and compiled to enable periodic evaluation of the efficacy of conservation interventions and to guide adaptive management. [Top]
Where can I learn more about the IOSEA Site Network?
For any additional information on the Site Network or individual sites, not already covered by the documentation on the IOSEA website, you may wish to contact the IOSEA Focal Point in your country, whose contact details can be found here:
Alternatively, you may wish to address your questions to the IOSEA Marine Turtle MoU Secretariat in Bangkok: firstname.lastname@example.org