Maritime Environmental Protection


CSCAP-Philippines, CSCAP-China, Aus-CSCAP, CSCAP-Vietnam, CSCAP Singapore, CSCAP-New Zealand

Introduction and significance of the study

The oceans are humanity’s last frontier on Planet Earth. Beyond their uses as the world’s sea lanes of communications (SLOCs) used for navigation by both commercial and non-commercial shipping, they are humanity’s sources of food and other resources. Rich in biodiversity, they provide the spaces for marine resources to flourish. However, they have increasingly been challenged by pollution from oil spills, over fishing, and other hazardous extraction of marine resources through drilling, and dredging for infrastructure construction by littoral states.

Various international and regional instruments for marine environmental protection are already in place. Among those at the international level are the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL), the Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by dumping of Wastes and other Matter (or 1972 London Convention), and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) also obligates signatory states to protect and preserve the marine environment.

At the regional level are the Partnerships in Environmental Management of Seas in East Asia (PEMSEA) and the Coral Sea Triangle (CT) despite the absence of a broader legal framework; the trilateral cooperation between Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore to ensure safety of navigation in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore, the ASEAN Working Group on Coastal and Marine Environment (AWGCME), the ASEAN Center for Biodiversity (ACB), the ASEAN Fisheries Consultative Forum, and the newly-established Expanded ASEAN Maritime Forum (EAMF). The ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) and the East Asia Summit (EAS) also recognize the importance of marine environmental protection, as do the Blueprint for the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community and the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC).

However, despite these numerous formal and informal instruments, some of which have been successfully undertaking marine environmental protection in East Asia, much remains to be done to protect our oceans from pollution that undermines the peoples’ livelihood, especially fisheries.

Thus, there is a need to establish a mechanism for regional cooperation on marine environmental protection for a more effective collective approach to protect our oceans, including the waterways, whether for commercial or livelihood purposes. In this regard, a focus on the protection of the coral reefs, particularly in East Asia where much of the Asia-Pacific region’s poor communities live along the coasts. An examination of existing frameworks for marine environmental protection, focused on coral reef protection is, therefore, in order.

Objectives of the study

Anticipated output

How does this proposed study group differ from previous studies undertaken by CSCAP in the past?

CSCAP has done significant work on maritime security in the Asia Pacific. Previous CSCAP Study Groups related to maritime security produced various memoranda on managing incidents-at-sea, confidence-building measures, enhancement of capabilities of maritime security forces, safety of underwater cables, and maritime security cooperation. This proposed study group will be the first that is solely focused on marine environment protection, particularly of coral reefs that are critical to fisheries resources and biodiversity. 

How does this study group relate to the on-going concerns of ARF ISMs? (for extension of completed mandate only)

The ARF Inter-Sessional Meeting on Maritime Security was established in July 2008 during the 15th ARF Ministerial Meeting in Singapore. In the 17th ARF Ministerial Meeting in Hanoi in July 2010, the Ministers agreed that an ARF Work Plan on maritime security should be developed, in which one of the pillars is marine environment.
The ARF recognizes that non-traditional security issues can serve as early building blocks for the cultivation of mutual trust and consensus in the region. In their view, protection of the marine environment that is mutually beneficial to all parties in the region should continue to be a priority area. The proposed CSCAP Study Group on Marine Environmental Protection, which seeks to examine the effects of marine pollution on coral reefs, is a critical follow through activity that can enhance previous ARF maritime security activities that so far has specifically addressed marine pollution. 


Start: September 2015  End: August 2017


A Memorandum produced by this Study Group on Enhancing Marine Environment Protection in the Asia-Pacific region was approved. Download Memorandum No.31

3rd Meeting: 6-8 February 2017, Tokyo, Japan
2nd Meeting: 5-6 September 2016, Quingdao, People's Republic of China
1st Meeting: 4-5 April 2016, Manila, The Philippines