Ministry of Environmental Conservation and Forestry of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar
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The Myeik Archipelago (MA) comprises about 800 islands of primarily limestone and granite located along 60 km off Myanmar’s southern coast. These islands are covered by lowland wet evergreen forest and surrounded by an extensive coral reef system. Mangrove forests, beach and dune forests, and seagrass beds add to the faunal and floral diversity. The MA contains one protected area: Lampi Island Marine National Park (LIMNP), which was designated in 1996 and is an ASEAN Heritage Park. MA contains two shark protected areas and three small crab protected areas (40, 46, and 121 hectares, respectively). The MA and Andaman Sea are home to about 1,000 indigenous nomadic Moken and more who are no longer nomadic.
The MA property may include portions of the coastline of Taninthayi Division and could be extended inland to form a reef-to ridge site. Areas important for wildlife, including breeding beaches for sea turtles, aggregation sites for marine life like manta rays at Black Rock, and group roosting sites, like Hornbill Island with its 150-individual roosts of Plain-pouched Hornbill, could form core zones of the property. The MA and Andaman Sea form a single large marine ecosystem with the corals in Thailand, which were severely bleached 2010, restored by polyps from Myanmar.
Justification of Outstanding Universal Value
The MA contains most of Myanmar’s coral reef, along with some of its best preserved mangrove forests, lowland evergreen forests, and seagrass meadows, and forms an ecological system of outstanding biodiversity and integrity. Surveys have recoded 50 globally threatened plants and animals on LIMNP alone, including 20 dipterocarp species, three species of sea turtles, dugong, and a variety of fish, coral, sea cucumbers, and other marine species. The MA is large enough to support landscape species like the Plain-pouched Hornbill and maintain the full suite of ecological and evolutionary processes.
Coral reefs, seagrass beds, lowland evergreen forests, and mangroves are under great pressure elsewhere in the region from overharvesting and conversion, making the MA of high global importance for marine and coastal conservation.
Criterion (ix): The MA contains all the components necessary to sustain ecological and evolutionary processes. Mangroves, coral reefs, and seagrass beds play distinct roles in the life cycles of marine organisms, while intact lowland evergreen, mangrove, and coastal forests support a suite of wide-ranging species linking islands and habitat types. Further surveys of outlying islands may reveal endemic species that have evolved as a result of relative isolation and serve as an example of the evolutionary processes of island systems.
Criterion (x): The MA contains multiple threatened terrestrial and marine species. While data is lacking for much of the archipelago, marine wildlife observed include the Dugong, Whale Shark, three species of sea turtle, manta rays, and a suite of sharks species. The Plain-pouched Hornbill is a landscape species that flies between islands of lowland evergreen forest. Seagrass beds, located primarily on the eastern side of islands where they have some protection from monsoons winds and waves, provide forage for sea turtles and Dugong. Although the number of Dugong present is unknown, surveys indicate about 200 individuals in the Andaman Sea further south. There may be over 500 hard coral species in the Archipelago, though additional surveys are necessary to confirm species richness.
Surveys of LIMNP have recorded 195 evergreen plant species and 63 plants associated with mangrove forest. In addition, 19 mammal, 228 bird, 19 reptile, 10 amphibian, 42 fish, 42 crab, 50 gastropod, 41 bivalves, 35 sea-cucumber, 73 seaweed, 11 seagrass, and 333 plankton species have been identified, including many globally threatened species (Oikos and BANCA 2011; Myanmar Biodiversity 2012). A greatly increased survey effort is needed to document patterns of biodiversity across all 800 islands and marine areas. This information is needed to zone the MA into core and multiple use zones. Existing knowledge indicates that MA has outstanding value for the conservation of marine and terrestrial species. Globally threatened terrestrial species present include:
EN: Sunda Pangolin (Manis javanica)
VU: Finless Porpoise (Neophocaena phocaenoides), Whale Shark (Rhincodon typus), Dugong (Dugong dugon), Irrawaddy Dolphin (Orcaella brevirostris), Asian Small-clawed Otter (Aonyx cinerea), Southern Pig-tailed Macaque (Macaca nemestrina)
VU: Plain-pouched Hornbill (Aceros subruficollis)
CR: Hawksbill Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata), Leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea)
EN: Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas), Spiny Turtle (Heosemys spinosa),
VU: Asian Box Turtle (Cuora amboinensis), Asiatic Softshell Turtle (Amyda cartilaginea), Burmese Eyed Turtle (Morenia ocellata)
CR: Dipterocarpus spp.(20 species), Sonneratia griffithii
EN: Heritiera fomes, Diospyros crumenata, Syzygium zeylanicum, Ternstroemia penangiana
VU: Abarema bigemina, Memecylon grande
Statements of authenticity and/or integrity
The MA contains some of the best preserved coral reefs, seagrass meadows, lowland evergreen forests, and mangrove forests in the region (Tun et al. 2008; Oikos and BANCA 2011). However, there are numerous reports of dynamite fishing, illegal in-shore and off-shore trawling, unregulated tourism development, the spontaneous arrival of fishers from elsewhere in Myanmar and other threats that could rapidly degrade its outstanding values. Dynamite fishing, which destroys coral reefs, is common around LIMNP.
There is a pressing need for a MA-wide management plan to direct new development, especially for tourism and fisheries, and protect key areas. This plan needs to take into account the MA’s size, limited government capacity, and the rapid pace of development. Such a plan would build on the body of research reports produced by the Bay of Bengal Large Marine Ecosystem (BOBLME) Project, the management plan for LIMNP being prepared by Oikos, data from ongoing marine surveys led by Flora and Fauna International, and other sources including Myanmar Universities. It should also take advantage of relevant experience in the Andaman Sea and regionally on sustainable tourism, locally managed MPAs, other conservation strategies.
There are approximately 1,000 nomadic Moken in the MA and Andaman Sea, and more who are no longer nomadic. The Moken’s lack of full citizenship limits their economic, educational, and political opportunities. As stakeholders with deep knowledge of the MA’s natural resources, there is a need to develop management arrangements that integrate Moken rights and responsibilities. The relationship of the Moken with the sea may meet cultural heritage criteria for this site.
The lack of reliable marine biodiversity data is perhaps the major constraint on designing management interventions. The last comprehensive, offshore fish surveys were conducted in 1979-1980 by a Norwegian research boat, which returned in November 2013. In 2007, the Department of Fisheries, in collaboration with Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center (SEAFDEC) conducted a fisheries resource survey from the Gulf of Martaban (Mottama) to the MA. Need for more data is also reflected in uncertainty about the coral species richness in the Archipelago, with estimates from different sources ranging from 95 species to over 500 (Oikos and BANCA 2011).
Comparison with other similar properties
The MA contains portions of some of the least degraded marine, mangrove, and lowland forest habitat in the Bay of Bengal and contains a diverse landscape of lowland evergreen forests, coral reefs, and seagrass beds. While it lacks the size and coral diversity of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef or the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System, the MA is distinguished by the extent and integrity of its lowland evergreen forest islands. Its terrestrial habitat diversity also sets it apart from other marine WHS that consist of marine areas and atolls, such as the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park in the Philippines. The Andaman Sea region, which includes the MA, was identified as a “gap province” by a recent IUCN analysis of marine WHS, indicating that the MA has natural values that are not covered by existing properties (Abdulla et al. 2013). Other than the marine portion of the Sundarbans, the MA would be the only marine site in the Bay of Bengal.