Cambodia to create its first Marine Protected Area

Posted: 5 July 2012

Cambodia will begin the creation of its first Marine Protected Area (MPA) this year, covering some 300 square kilometres of coral-rich seas around islands of Koh Rong and Koh Rong Samloem in the Gulf of Thailand.

This follows a successful two-year scientific survey of the area by Coral Cay Conservation. Announcing this, the UK NGO said it would continue to work closely with the Government of Cambodia, project partners and local stakeholders, to assist in the development and management of the project.

Koh Rong
Photo © Coral Cay Conservation

Over the past two years, volunteers have collected the information needed to provide a scientific basis for the creation of a large-scale, multiple-use MPA around the islands. The managed area will include a wide diversity of habitats rich in coral reefs, mangrove forests and seagrass beds, in addition to the upland rainforests found on both islands.

The project is receiving funding from the Blue Moon Fund, with further support from Cambodian partners, and Flora and Fauna International.

Coral Cay said the next steps are to continue to monitor the marine habitats and work with local partners, communities and the private sector to ensure that a consensus is reached to support different conservation management zones and encourage the development of low-impact tourism initiatives.

Survey results

Coral Cay’s Head of Science, Jan-Willem van Bochove, who presented results from the scientific survey, said it was an honour to be working with such a conservation-minded government.”The MPA set to be implemented later this year will help secure some of Cambodia’s most precious reef systems and hopefully create the momentum for the establishment of further MPAs throughout the region.”

In his report van Bochove stressed the importance of continued monitoring of reef health on all sites around Koh Rong in the coming years.

“What is needed now is to conduct regular monitoring activities along permanent stations. This information will provide important feedback on the success or failure of the MPA to protect coral reefs and associated habitats. It will also allow for adaptive management practices to be implemented if needs be.

Koh Rong coral reef
Photo © Coral Cay Conservation

He said one of the key factors to be addressed in the next decade will be minimising the impact of human stresses to allow the reefs to recover from the mass coral bleaching event that took place in the summer of 2010.

“It will be important to reduce the undue stress and preserve the existing diversity. The proposed multi-use MPA will provide some level of protection to the reefs but care must be taken to ensure appropriate zones are applied to the correct areas around the island.

He said it was imperative that land developers and others involved consider the impact that the developments will have on the reefs. “Increased sediment runoff, pollution, trash and boat activity may all impact the reefs reducing their viability and overall health. This was not only important for local communities who depend on the reefs for food but also for the tourist companies who will rely on the attraction of the reefs as a pull for clients.”

In light of this, he said it would be useful to conduct a monetary evaluation of the coral reef resources around Koh Rong in order to provide an economic value for the significant ecosystem services they provide.

The next steps would be to develop a multiple-use zones, including no-take, recovery, recreational, mooring and limited fishing areas, using the information gathered by both Coral Cay Conservation and Marine Conservation Cambodia.

For more information about the Cambodia Coral Reef Conservation Project, visit the website here.