Capstone Title

Sustainable Development of Coral Reefs & Related Rsources in Southeast Asia

Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

M.S. Coastal Zone Management

Second Degree Name

M.S. Marine Biology

First Advisor

Steffen Schmidt

Second Advisor

Bernhard Riegl


The marine environment has been experiencing rapid degradation on a global scale. Complex ecosystems such as coral reefs suffer from a lack of protection, effective policies, and management plans (Roberts, 1995; Nontji, 2000; UNEP, 2001). Fisheries, both coastal and pelagic, are facing depletion globally (Keen, 1988; Safina, 1994; Hinrichsen, 1996; Chou, 1997; FAO, 2000; Menasveta, 2000; Naylor et al, 2000; Woodard, 2000; Pew OC, 2003). Intense population growth-a doubling in the last 50 years-has increased stress on these ecosystems worldwide. Human impacts on coral reefs include pollution, pressures from the fishing and tourism industries, as well as the increased exploitation of the resources themselves (i.e. coral skeletons, reef organisms), which has been facilitated by technological advancement (Gomez, 1981; Sudara, 1981; Kinsey, 1988; Chou, 1997; Eakin et al, 1997; McManus, 1997; Edinger et al, 1998; Nontji, 2000). The added natural stressors of storms and other varied weather patterns provide threats with which these resources constantly need to contend, but human impacts are considered the most destructive (Chou, 1997; Nontji, 2000; UNEP, 2001).

East Asia is of particular concern for a few reasons. This region has the highest marine biodiversity in the world, and has had a higher percentage of population increase than the rest of the world while experiencing fast-paced economic growth (Chou, 1997; Harashima, 2000). The entire coastline of East Asian countries, both in the north and the south falls in the highest population density category according to the UN. The coastal population in Southeast Asia doubled between 1980 and 2000 (ADB, 2002). The increasing affluence of countries such as China, Korea, and Japan has fueled the economies of the entire region. This suggests that the coastal and marine resources along the western Pacific coastline must support rapidly growing populations that have traditionally depended on their coastal resources for such necessities as food, building materials, medicines, and livelihoods (PEMSEA, 2001) while supporting rapidly growing economies. Of the world's coral reefs, 30% lie in the seas of Southeast Asia (Chou, 1997; UNEP, 2001). These reefs have the highest biodiversity of all coral reef regions (UNEP, 2001). Mangroves in this region comprise 30% of the world's total. The Asian Pacific region is responsible for close to 70% of global fish production and as much as 75% of global aquaculture production (Thurston, 1999).

With fish being a major food source, and in many cases the main source of dietary animal protein (Chou, 1997; Menasveta, 2000), the demand and the high value of fresh seafood have encouraged destructive forms of fishing on reefs such as blast and poison fishing in an effort to provide live fish for the food and aquarium fish industries (Sammarco, 1996; Edinger et al, 1998; Erdmann & Pet, 1999; Hinrichsen, 1997; UNEP, 2001; Fox et al, 2003). This and overfishing wreak havoc on the diverse and productive coral reef ecosystems, threatening global biodiversity (Roberts, 1995; McClanahan, 1997; Fox et al, 2000; Nontji, 2000; Pet-Soede et al, 2001). The demand for seafood and the increasing economic pressures encourage more aquaculture farms to encroach on mangroves in their quest for space, and pollute reefs and mangroves with their resulting nutrient runoff (Kinsey, 1988; Sammarco, 1996). Problems with pollution also result from the high rates of industrial, agricultural, and logging activities onshore (Sammarco, 1996; Dight & Scherl, 1997; UNEP, 2001). The region's high population density in addition to its high poverty rate (ASEAN, 2002) indicates that this coastline is probably among the most polluted areas in the world (Hinrichsen, 1996). The region must also deal with natural stressors, such as dynamic weather patterns in Asia, which cause many typhoons. These storms change the water temperatures, increase freshwater runoff and water turbidity, causing wave action capable of pounding and breaking reefs, and many other forms of damage.

Sustainable development is currently the direction in which managers and policy makers need to move in order to protect these resources from depletion (Best et al, 1992; Chou, 1997; ADB, 2002). Sustainable development involves all aspects of human development and is defined by the United Nations (UN) as: "Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs" ( 21/index.htm). Natural resource development is only one small part. Sustainable development must ensue globally, as it will take international cooperation and effort for human development to continue. Managing our natural environment, which is the global arena in which human development occurs, must be approached in the same manner. This paper will: 1) explore the sustainable development of coral reefs and related resources such as mangroves, reef fisheries, and aquaculture in Southeast Asia; 2) highlight present cooperative efforts in international management; and 3) acknowledge trends which future policies and management plans should follow.

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