The Seagrass Ecosystem Services Project is funded by the International Climate Initiative (IKI) and runs in partnership with the climate action Paris agreement 2015. The project aims to conserve biodiversity, seagrass ecosystems and their services across 5 Indo-Pacific countries (Malaysia, Philippines, Indonesia, Timor-Leste and Thailand). National partners (often NGOs) work closely with coastal communities and technical experts to run community-led seagrass conservation work. 

The second of the national partners involved in The Seagrass Ecosystem Services Project that we are highlighting is MareCet Research Organisation, a non-profit NGO working within Malaysia. The organisation is dedicated to research, education and conservation of marine mammals and their fragile habitats. They were established in 2012 by a small group of conservationists with a passion for protecting marine life. MareCet aims to work with local communities and stakeholders to improve their scientific knowledge and promote ocean stewardship, enabling an alternative income opportunity with direct, consistent, and meaningful participation in conservation. They also work with conservation strategies already in place to strengthen and increase their capacity.

MareCet team in the field

In 2014, MareCet became involved in ‘The Seagrass Ecosystem Services Project’, at first investigating the biological, ecological and conservation needs of dugong populations around a set of islands (the Sibu-Tinggi Archipelago). This work then expanded to the dugongs associated with seagrass habitat. Their team deploy under water monitoring systems (BRUVs – Baited Remote Underwater Video Systems) to collect data on the health of the seagrass in order to inform decisions on conservation strategies.

Drone footage helps to gather information on seagrass meadows and can identify dugong feeding trails

Their hard work has been recognised, in 2019 an endangered population of dugongs and their associated seagrass habitat in the Sibu-Tinggi Archipelago were recognised as an important Marine Mammals Protected Area (MMPA) by the ICUN MMPA task force. This was all down to the efforts of the community managing this area. Furthermore, the Johor dugong sanctuary has also been developed, protecting Malaysia’s largest dugong population where there is fewer than 100 individuals left. Local communities aim to set up experiences for experiencing the biodiversity first hand in a harmless way, enabling people to build stronger connections to the local environment to help promote conservation efforts.

One of our team is currently out in the Indo-Pacific, providing in person technical support to MareCet. We can’t wait to hear how their projects are going and we will provide updates where we can on here and across our social medias.

Bethan Thomas

Author Bethan Thomas

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