Indian Ocean–South-East Asian Marine Turtle Memorandum of Understanding
The Indian Ocean–South-East Asian (IOSEA) Marine Turtle memorandum of understanding (MoU) is a non-binding intergovernmental agreement that aims to protect, conserve, and recover sea turtles and their habitats in the Indian Ocean and Southeast Asia. The agreement falls under the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (Article IV, paragraph 4).
Six marine turtles are protected under IOSEA:
- Flatback turtle (Natator depressus)
- Green turtle (Chelonia mydas)
- Hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata)
- Leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea)
- Loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta)
- Olive ridley turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea)
Conserving marine turtles is very important—not just because of their value in themselves, but also because they are keystone species on which we prioritize conservation efforts. Protecting their habitat also protects many other marine species.
It is also challenging. Many communities throughout the world continue to use turtle meat and eggs as a source of protein and turtle shells for traditional crafts. The IOSEA Marine Turtle MoU effort was launched to address these region-specific issues. It created a framework through which states in the region (and other concerned states) can share the responsibility of protecting, conserving, and recovering depleted marine turtle populations.
The MoU and associated conservation and management plan (see the section below) were developed under a series of intergovernmental negotiation sessions in Perth, Australia (October 1999); Kuantan, Malaysia (July 2000); and Manila, Philippines (June 2001).
The MoU came into effect on September 1, 2001, and is open for signature indefinitely. The signatory states held their first meeting in January 2003 and established a regional secretariat in April 2003. There are now more than more than 35 signatories, and they hold regular meetings.
The secretariat for the MoU is headquartered located in Bonn, Germany. It is part of the Secretariat for the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals, which aims to conserve migratory species throughout their entire ranges. The convention and its subsidiary agreements are administered by the U.N. Environment Programme.
The agreement area is divided into four sub-regions:
- Southeast Asia and Australia
- Northern Indian Ocean
- Northwest Indian Ocean
- West Indian Ocean
Conservation and Management Plan
The conservation and management plan applies to the waters and coastal states of the Indian Ocean and Southeast Asia and adjacent seas. It sets these objectives:
- Reduce direct and indirect causes of marine turtle mortality.
- Protect, conserve, and rehabilitate marine turtle habitats.
- Improve understanding of marine turtle ecology and populations through research, monitoring, and information exchange.
- Increase public awareness of the threats to marine turtles and their habitats, and enhance public participation in conservation activities.
- Enhance national, regional, and international cooperation.
- Promote implementation of the MoU, including the plan itself.
Due to many other pressing development issues in the region, some countries lack the resources to implement the MoU on their own. The MoU offers these countries support and capacity-building assistance.
Success of any MoU activity depends on effort from a wide range of participants—all levels of government, nongovernmental organizations, and civil society.