5th International Tropical Marine Ecosystem Management Symposium


On behalf of the ICRI Secretariat, the Governments of Japan and the Philippines co-hosted the 5th International Tropical Marine Ecosystem Management Symposium (ITMEMS) in Bohol, Philippines from 25-28 February 2016. ITMEMS 5 is organized in partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

Following ITMEMS4’s example, ITMEMS5 will be designed to achieve focused consideration of tropical marine ecosystem management issues in the local context, and will provide a forum for experiential learning, peer group interaction, mentoring and professional development among coastal and marine managers and their partners. The sessions and topics to be addressed include:

  • Resilience-based management
  • Marine Spatial Planning in Practice - Learning from common challenges and enabling conditions
  • Fisheries management
  • Sustainable reef tourism (Green Fins)
  • Ecological valuation
  • Marine conservation finance

Download the summary report of the Symposiyum (PDF File)

Click on the blocks below to find out more about each session

Session 1. Marine spatial planning in practice—Practical approaches and experiences on spatial planning and integrated management for sustainable use of tropical marine and coastal ecosystems

Expected duration of session: One day

By the end of the session participants will:

  • understand how ecosystem-based spatial planning and integrated management can support sustainable and resilient tropical coastal development and resource use;
  • be familiar with common challenges or constraints faced by managers that hinder implementation of coastal and marine spatial planning initiatives, including which enabling conditions are considered critical to ensuring implementation;
  • have overview of MSP tools and their application in different situations;
  • have a common pool of practical planning and implementation experiences from the field;
  • have formed professional relations and imitated a peer-network among tropical coastal spatial planners and managers.

Tropical marine and coastal ecosystems and the services they provide to growing coastal populations are currently declining due to increasing human activities. The trend is amplified by a range of direct and indirect drivers due to uncoordinated, often competing, sector policies and management. Trade-offs exists between the benefits of activities for human well-being and their cumulative impacts on marine and coastal ecosystems, their biodiversity and productivity. Integrated, ecosystem-based approaches to policy and management across sectors is therefore regarded essential for sustainable and resilient coastal development. Yet, effective ecosystem-based planning and management is often limited by lack of practical tools, guidance and lessons from the field. This session will bring together national and local coastal planners and managers to introduce and discuss practical spatial planning approaches; share practical experiences from applying spatial planning tools in different context; and help identify practical solutions and enabling conditions that can facilitate more integrated management planning and plan implementation.

Session 2. Resilience-based Management: Application of coral reef resilience assessments to support policy and management

Expected duration of session: One day

By the end of the session participants will:

  • understand the concept of resilience-based management, and be able to communicate it to different audiences;
  • be familiar with the guidance Resilience Assessment of Coral Reefs for Decision- support;
  • be able to integrate resilience assessment and climate change exposure data (projections and downscaled climate models) to support prioritization in reef management;
  • be able to integrate resilience assessment findings into management and policy decisions.

Human activities have led to widespread reef degradation around the world, but dependence on the ecosystem services provided by coral reefs remains high. Managing coral reefs at a time when changing sea temperatures, levels and chemistry are already negatively affecting the capacity of corals to settle, grow, calcify and persist, presents a unique set of challenges. In many reef areas, increasingly frequent environmental disturbances combined with anthropogenic stressors are challenging the natural resilience of reef systems and those that depend on them. Adaptively managing coral reefs to support their resilience requires a dynamic understanding of the processes that influence their condition and the pressures that affect their future health. Resilience-based management builds on current management approaches by helping to optimize established ecosystem-based management practices to strategically address current and future pressures.

In this session, we will explore assessment tools and methods to gather information on potential reef resilience, what data are available, how to fill gaps, and how to incorporate climate change exposure data to inform management decisions. The session will share best practices for conducting resilience assessments, identification and prioritization of data, analysis and interpretation. Emphasis will be placed on practical application through a guided exercise using real data. A field exercise will be included if possible. Management and policy implications of the results will be highlighted as we step through the resilience-based management process. Specifically, case studies demonstrating how assessments have been used to inform management and policy decisions will be shared with specific examples to guide future application.

Session 3. Reducing impacts of reef tourism through public-private partnerships using the Green Fins approach

Expected duration of session: One day

By the end of the session participants will:

  • understand the environmental threats associated with the dive and snorkel industry;
  • recognize the opportunity of engaging reef tourism stakeholders in local environmental initiatives;
  • be familiar with the Green Fins approach to promoting environmental best practice within reef tourism activities;
  • be able to provide guidance on industry best practice through local workshops and dissemination of education and outreach materials.

Environmental threats posed by reef tourism activities are well documented and management measures to address these are needed. Green Fins is a public private partnership for environmental stewardship in the reef tourism industry, focusing on diving and snorkeling. The approach encompasses three main elements: certification of dive center operations based on a code of conduct and a robust assessment system; support towards developing or strengthening implementation of relevant regulatory frameworks; and strategic outreach to dive centers and their customers as well as government partners. This session will draw on the decade-long experiences of Green Fins to enable resource managers conduct strategic outreach activities tailored to their local needs, and to promote best environmental practice in line with the Green Fins Code of Conduct. The session will encourage participants to consider threats currently posed by the reef tourism industry in their areas, and propose solutions to those threats using the Green Fins approach. If possible, the session will include a field trip to a snorkel site to apply, on a trial basis, the approaches in working with dive shops and their customers as well as, if possible, observe Green Fins trained snorkel guides above and under the water. Each participant will receive a Green Fins outreach toolkit (including educational posters, guidelines to best practice and PowerPoint presentations) and guidance on its use. Participants will also be given an opportunity to consider if the full Green Fins approach, including the assessments and regulatory reform, could strengthen coastal ecosystem management in their areas.

Additional info on session:

Target audience - Anyone who is involved in coastal / marine resource management, from the national to the local levels, and is interested in applying an integrated approach to manage environmental impacts associated with diving / snorkelling tourism activities.
Participants would be expected to dive / snorkel as part of the field session - but we also might have land based activities for those who would rather not.

Session 4. Use of periodic coral reef fisheries closures as management catalysts to build local level engagement in conservation

Expected duration of session: 1-2 hours

Through sharing experiences from coral reef management in the western Indian Ocean, by the end of the session the participants will:

  • understand the use of short term closures of gleaning fisheries for key species to demonstrate economic returns from fisheries management;
  • understand how to build local support for community-based management within locally-managed marine areas (LMMAs).

Periodic fishery closures are designated intervals where fishermen refrain from harvesting in specific areas. This allows for recruitment and growth in a particular area, optimistically leading to increased catch post closure. Successful closures are those that increase economic benefit without losses during the closure period.

The use of periodic, temporary fishery closures targeted at rapidly growing species can have positive economic benefits for low income fishing communities and can be a promising option for the coastal management portfolio in less developed nations. The use of this approach to community based coral reef fisheries management has expanded dramatically in the Indian Ocean over the past decade. Analysis of one regime in Madagascar suggests that the returns from periodic closures of reef octopus fisheries are substantial, rapid, and recurring.

The history of management in the region also suggests that short-term interventions that demonstrate tangible management benefits may aid in the development of broader community and co-management efforts. By building better conditions for cooperation, the management of an effective periodic closure regime may help build grassroots support for other, broader marine management and conservation.

This session will present the latest science from 10 years of monitoring the impacts of periodic fisheries closures in Madagascar, along with filmed interviews with fishers and community members. The session will focus on sharing experiences from three different tropical coastal states that are in different stages of adopting this approach to community-based fisheries management and conservation: Madagascar, Mauritius, and Mexico.

Session 5. Incorporating Coral Ecological Services and Functions Valuation into Compensatory Mitigation for Reef Damage

Expected duration of session: Half day

By the end of the session participants will:

  • understand how lost ecological services and functions for corals can be used to determine specific levels of compensatory mitigation and restoration for both planned (coastal development, dredging, etc.) and unplanned (vessel groundings, oil spills, etc.) human-caused impact events;
  • be familiar with, and will have practiced using, the new ICRI Global Coral Ecological Services and Functions Assessment Tool;
  • have provided feedback to the organizers about the tool and its applicability;
  • have received a copy of the tool to take back and share with their professional colleagues involved in coral reef resource management in their home country;
  • have formed professional relations and initiated a peer-network among marine resource professionals regarding ecological valuation for lost services and functions from impact events.

Each participant will receive a working version of the new ICRI Global Coral Ecological Services and Functions Assessment tool (MS-Excel version) and have practiced using it during the workshop. The tool can be used with all coral species within the 15 recognized stony coral families worldwide and is easily adapted for any coral reef jurisdiction. Participants can then take the tool back to their home country and incorporate it into their natural resource trustee activities for evaluating impacts from human activities, and for establishing both restoration and compensatory mitigation targets.

The ICRI Global Coral Ecological Services and Functions Assessment tool itself is very simple and does not require extensive knowledge beyond inputting a few variables:

  • The species of coral impacted for each colony impacted along with its dominant form and level of rarity in your area.
  • The size of each colony impacted (measured by its longest diameter and within established size categories).
  • The type of sub habitat (substrate) each coral colony occurs on.
  • Each of these is selected from pre-provided lists of choices. The tool itself is very transparent and provides guidance along each step as to what it is doing.

Additional info on session:

Target audience - any participant interested in evaluating lost ecological services and functions associated with corals damaged through various human activities.

This session is interactive and will require participants to bring their own laptop (or share one with a colleague), with a version of Microsoft Excel already loaded onto it. Laptops should have the capability to use either a flash drive or CD, which will be provided with the ICRI Global Coral Ecological Services and Functions Assessment Tool pre-loaded on it for down- loading onto your laptop. Participants will spend a portion of the session running the tool themselves with either their own data or a sample set provided by the organizers.

Session 6. Ecosystem services and sustainable financing of MPAs

Expected duration of session: 4 hours

By the end of the sessions participants will:

  • understand the role of ecosystem services valuation and how it can be used to gain political support;
  • understand why simply using an economic value of reefs is inadequate for compensation and the importance of habitat compensation schemes
  • know the different financing mechanisms currently used for conservation and be able to determine those most suitable for their particular circumstances

The session will be directed to MPA managers and other stakeholders. It will be divided into 4 sessions of conceptual presentations (1.5h) and 1 session of working group (2.5h).

The first session (20’) will be an introduction to the concepts of ecosystem services (ES) and economic valuation.

The second session (20’+10Q&A) will present results of economic valuations of ES with a clear identification of the beneficiaries and the spatial distribution of the ES. Case studies of economic valuations of coral reef ecosystem services and MPAs in Fiji, St Martin, Bonaire Honduras and Mayotte will be used for illustration.

The third session (15’+10’Q&A) will present different financing mechanisms, including regional/national solutions (e.g., trust funds, fiscality and tourism fees) as well as more local methods (e.g., user fees, Payment for ES and private management of MPAs). The fourth session (15’+10’Q&A) will be dedicated to loss of ecosystem services, and presenting habitat compensation schemes for reef damage.

Training (2.5 hours)

The fifth session (2.5 hours) will be dedicated to working group sessions. Each group will deal with a real policy questions to be addressed in one country (e.g. damage claims, demonstrating the importance of herbivores, analysis of expansion of cruise tourism, sustainable financing of MPAs, etc.). The group will clearly identify the policy question, mind map on ES, actions, key messages, targets and communication supports.

Additional info on session:

Target audience - Coastal Zone Managers, NGOs, anyone who has to communicate the importance of coastal ecosystems, persons involved in compensation for damage to reefs.
What to bring: Laptop, tablet or just paper and pen
Be prepared to: Communicate

The following organisations are generously supporting the organization of the event to enable the participation of managers and stakeholders from around the world:

  • Ministry of the Environment, Government of Japan
  • The Philippine Government
  • United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), through the Blue Solutions project and the UNEP-Regional Seas Global Coral Reef Partnership
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
  • Blue Ventures
  • The Reef-World Foundation