Govt Announces Plan to Protect Burma’s Oceans

By Rik Glauert 24 February 2017

RANGOON — The Burmese government and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) announced a plan to protect the biodiversity of Burma’s oceans on Friday at the World Ocean Summit in Bali, Indonesia.

The ocean space management plan—titled “Marine Spatial Planning for Myanmar: Strategic Advice for Securing a Sustainable Ocean Economy”—aims to maintain livelihoods that rely on the sea and protect Burma’s dolphins, sea turtles, and other species.

It was produced by the Department of Fisheries and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation, with support from WCS in the US, the University of Exeter in the UK, and local fair governance program Pyoe Pin.
The plan details a number of programs, including those to improve knowledge of local marine life and the scale and scope of extractive activities such as gas exploration and commercial fishing.

“We believe this strategy provides us with a robust structure through which to develop our ocean economy,” said U Hla Kyaw, Deputy Director of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation (Department of Fisheries), according to a press release.

Burma’s oceans cover some 486,000 square kilometers, most of which is currently unprotected, and provide habitats for species such as the finless porpoise, several species of sea turtle, and the dugong (a relative of the manatee).

An estimated 1.4 million citizens’ livelihoods rely on fishing, according to the WCS.

“The new marine spatial planning strategy fills an urgent need to understand current and future marine resource use and how these activities can be combined into a coordinated plan for a sustainable ocean economy,” said Martin Callow, Advisor to WCS’s Myanmar Marine Conservation Program.