PROMOTING AN ECO-SYSTEM BASED APPROACH TO FISHERIES VIA TURTLE EXCLUDER DEVICES IN MALAYSIA
There are limited approaches to ecosystem-based fishery management in Malaysia, and scant involvement of local fishing communities in fishery management decision-making and policy. Because of this, bycatch is a serious concern – not only of smaller juvenile and trash fish but also of large marine endangered species such as marine turtles. Marine turtle populations in Malaysia have been depleted through long-term harvests of eggs and adults, and as bycatch in the ever-growing trawl fisheries. Turtles are currently being decimated indirectly through mechanised fisheries at a rate of 2,000 to 3,000 animals per year. This project aims to support the development and implementation of a long-term National bycatch reduction programme in partnership with the Department of Fisheries Malaysia as a component of an ecosystem-based approach to fisheries, at the same time improving the conservation status of sea turtles and their habitats in Malaysia while ensuring continued fishery benefits. This project will partner directly with fishing communities to enhance the effectiveness of conservation of sea turtles in six Malaysian states, alongside the Government sector, through the adoption of Turtle Excluder Devices (TED) technology, the removal of knowledge barriers, National and State mainstreaming activities, and fisher community-based stewardship approaches. Besides, it aims to also address Malaysia’s commitment to an ecosystem based approach to fisheries whereby fishery stocks are managed while addressing bycatch of unwanted species, and also addresses key commitments under international agreements including CBD (conservation of biodiversity), IOSEA Turtle MoU (reduction of bycatch, reduction of direct turtle mortality), the Coral Triangle Initiative (Ecosystem Approaches to Fishery Management and conservation of threatened marine fauna), and the Sulu Sulawesi Seascape programme. Key outcomes of this project will include 1) removal of barriers to critical knowledge needed for decision-making for effective conservation of sea turtles; 2) incorporation of sea turtle and ecosystem conservation priorities and measures into relevant policy, planning and regulatory framework review processes; and 3) enhancement of local fisher community-based stewardship of sea turtles at selected important sites.

Project Outcomes
Outcome 1. Barriers to critical knowledge needed for decision-making for effective conservation of sea turtles are removed:
Output 1.1: Critical gaps in knowledge of sea turtle distribution, threats and conservation opportunities are identified, and local and State threat assessments produced;
Output 1.2: Conservation-relevant information on sea turtles is collated and made publicly available through a dedicated web-based platform, and other channels as appropriate (project reports, presentations, media packs, press releases).

Outcome 2. Sea turtle and ecosystem conservation priorities and measures are incorporated into relevant policy, planning and regulatory framework review processes:
Output 2.1: Policy, planning and regulatory gaps to promote conservation of sea turtles are identified, and recommendations to address these developed (reports, policy papers, guidelines and other project results);
Output 2.2: Advocacy programmes for policy, planning and regulatory recommendations for improved marine biodiversity conservation and management are developed;
Output 2.3: Capacity of fisheries officials, national task forces and local and private sector champions in target areas enhanced to effectively implement training and communications programmes.

Outcome 3. Local fisher community-based stewardship of sea turtles at selected important sites is enhanced:
Output 3.1: Raised awareness of the need for management intervention and community involvement in conservation of sea turtles;
Output 3.2: Capacity of local fisher communities and relevant government staff in target areas to actively participate in conservation and monitoring of sea turtles;
Output 3.3: Awareness raising and social marketing programmes to encourage small scale and larger commercial fishers to adopt more sustainable practices (TEDs) are developed and implemented in target areas.

A summary of the key components of the project, will include the following:

1. Conduct of at-sea trials: Vessels will be contracted to participate in demonstration end education trials, alternatively using and removing TEDs on rotation to eliminate vessel crew and temporal bias. The project will engage observers to document TED impacts on reducing fish bycatch, improving fuel efficiency and catch quality.

2. Community dialogue sessions: MRF will convene meetings with fishers to present the results of the TEDs trials, TED video footage, and to seek additional vessels for TEDs project participation. MRF has conducted these events in the past with great success, and will follow similar style.

3. Empowering fishing crews: MRF will provide dedicated training to fishing crews and net makers to construct TEDs, and discuss the options for TED design variations. MRF will also assist in trials of these gears, providing video footage of their performance during fishing operations.

4. Incorporating turtle bycatch reduction in National policy: MRF will assist in convening National and State-level meetings with Department of Fishery officers and leadership to develop a comprehensive TED implementation plan.

5. Public awareness and outreach: MRF will make available the findings of the project through web-based portals, reports, media releases and social marketing programmes.

Marine turtles are integral components of Malaysian marine ecosystems, and provide tangible eco-tourism related services as well as supporting cultural and traditional values. The conservation of marine turtles is a critical step in promoting conservation of the wider marine ecosystem, enhancing marine stewardship, and promoting more sustainable fishery practices.

The reduction in bycatch of turtles will lead to replenishment of stocks in the Southeast Asian region (currently 2000-3000 are taken annually out of a nesting population of 8000-12000 nesters in Malaysia alone), and adoption of TEDs will contribute to population recovery.

Importantly, this project will work directly with fishing communities across the nation. These partnerships will generate increased levels of engagement / awareness of communities in target bycatch areas; further partnerships and buy-in will be generated through community stakeholder forums and monitoring committees. This project promotes community-based stewardship of fishery resources providing tangible benefits to fishing communities and the greater public. It also provides the opportunities for public-private partnerships through which we aim to encourage increased buy-in from the private sector to drive sustainable fishery practices.

This project addresses the losses of marine biodiversity through unsustainable fishery practices while being realistic and objective about the livelihoods of the local fishery communities – i.e. no loss in income. The outcomes of this project will directly highlight the extent of the bycatch problem and take steps to mitigate this through the introduction of TEDs in trawl fisheries in Malaysia. , which hosts thousands of nesting individuals each year.
 
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Project Snapshot

Grantee: The Registered Trustees of the Marine Research Foundation
Country: Malaysia
Area Of Work: Biodiversity
Operational Phase: Phase 5
Grant Amount: US$ 148,000.00
Co-Financing Cash: US$ 55,000.00
Co-Financing in-Kind: US$ 20,000.00
Project Number: MAL/SGP/OP5/Y3/SP/STAR/BD/14/03
Start Date: 4/2014
End Date: 1/2017
Status: Currently under execution