Based on an analysis of existing marine World Heritage sites and their distribution among the 18 IUCN marine regions, the Indian Ocean has been identified as one of the regions under-represented on the World Heritage List.

In support of the Global Strategy toward a balanced, credible and representative World Heritage List, a comparative regional assessment is being undertaken in the Indian Ocean. Presently, only two marine World Heritage sites are located in the Indian Ocean region, e.g., iSimangaliso Wetland Park in South Africa, listed in 1999, and Aldabra Atoll in Seychelles listed in 1982.

This comparative regional assessment will focus on the identification and description of potential new marine sites with potential Outstanding Universal Value in the Indian Ocean, and, in particular, in areas under the jurisdiction of:  Comoros, France (Mayotte & Reunion Islands), Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Seychelles, South Africa, and Tanzania.

The project also aims at laying the foundation for a more science-based approach toward identification of new potential marine World Heritage sites and the development of a representative, balanced and credible set of marine sites on the World Heritage List.

It is envisioned that this initiative will assist States Parties with their nomination of marine World Heritage sites, and in particular with their obligations toward illustrative comparative importance of their respective sites at a global scale. The assessment is scheduled to be finalized in June 2011 and will include an expert meeting in the region mid February 2011. A database with relevant literature and information will be hosted by the Flanders Institute for the Sea. The final report will be available on this website end of June 2011.

The project is funded through the Flanders Funds in Trust Agreement with UNESCO.