Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Thailand and Myanmar take steps for collaborative approach to the management of the Mergui Archipelago

Phuket, Thailand, 30 Jan 2011 -- Government officials, scientists and representatives of non-governmental organizations from Thailand and Myanmar met late last month to discuss the joint management of the Mergui Archipelago, also known as the Myeik Archipelago in Myanmar.

The Mergui Archipelago is a unique area about one hundred times the size of Phuket that transcends the western borders of Myanmar and Thailand, from the Similan Islands in Thailand north to beyond the coastal town of Mergui in Myanmar. It contains some of the most highly productive fishing grounds in the Bay of Bengal, and world class reserves of coral reefs, sea grass beds, and old-growth mangrove habitats. In addition to these critical habitats, the area is characterized by a large number of rare and endangered species, such as marine turtles, sharks and rays, and marine mammals.

The Archipelago is also home to the famous Moken People – the so called sea gypsies who live on boats and lead a nomadic lifestyle among the islands.

Given its rich biodiversity, the Mergui Archipelago is coming under increasing pressure from urban development, tourism and fishing. The archipelago is not exempt from the impacts of climate change and rising water temperatures that are contributing to coral bleaching in some areas.

At conclusion of the workshop, the officials agreed to form an executive committee, comprising the government agencies which have mandates in the region to govern and regulate resource use; a multi-stakeholder advisory group to assist the committee in its deliberations; and a series of working groups to pull together information and undertake various analyses.

The executive committee is expected to meet again later in the year. In the meantime a programme of data collection, review and analysis, involving a wide range of government bodies, universities and non-government organizations will start soon. The goal of the activities is to inform management and improve governance that aims at the balancing of sustainable resource use and social well-being.

The meeting was opened by Khin Ko Lay, Director-General of the Department of Fisheries, Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries of Myanmar, and Nanthiya Unprasert, Deputy Director-General for Thailand's Department of Fisheries.

BOBLME's regional manager, Chris O'Brien, stressed that "Myanmar and Thailand have taken a tremendous step forward for the management of a very important area and have demonstrated their serious commitment to working together to ensure the sustainable development and conservation of the Mergui Archipelago.

"FAO is keenly looking forward to facilitate future activities of the committee and working groups through the BOBLME Project,” Mr O'Brien added.

The 5-year BOBLME project - involving Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Maldives, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand - aims to improve the lives of the coastal populations through improved regional management of the Bay of Bengal environment and its fisheries.

The project is funded principally by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), Norway, Sweden, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the USA. The offices of the BOBLME project are located at the Andaman Sea Fisheries Research and development Centre complex in Phuket Thailand.

The Phuket workshop was the third in a series of meetings facilitated by the Bay of Bengal Large Marine Ecosystem Project (BOBLME). The workshop and preceding meetings were ably facilitated by CORIN-Asia.

Press release issued by the BOBLME project. For more information contact Chris O'Brien at telephone +66 (0)76 391 861 or email rcu@boblme.org