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The IOSEA Marine Turtle Memorandum of Understanding (the ‘MoU’) puts in place a framework through which States of the Indian Ocean and South-East Asia region, as well as other concerned States, can work together to conserve and replenish depleted marine turtle populations for which they share responsibility. Major threats to marine turtles include unsustainable exploitation, destruction of nesting and feeding habitats, and incidental mortality in fishing operations. The Conservation and Management Plan -- containing 24 programmes and 105 specific activities -- focuses on reducing threats, conserving critical habitat, exchanging scientific data, increasing public awareness and participation, promoting regional cooperation, and seeking resources for implementation.

State of implementation of the MoU by Signatory States: The most up-to-date individual National Reports of each of the 35 IOSEA Signatory State can be downloaded from the Viewer page of the Online Reporting Facility (1. Click 'Search Objectives/Activities'; 2. Select one or several countries/sub-regions as well as one or several Objectives/Activities/Themes or the ‘Full Report’; 3. click 'Query').

Background The MoU and associated Conservation and Management Plan were developed over a series of intergovernmental negotiation sessions held in Perth, Australia (October 1999), Kuantan, Malaysia (July 2000), and Manila, Philippines (June 2001).
Legal Framework Legally non-binding agreement concluded under the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (Article IV, paragraph 4).
Geographic Coverage Waters and coastal States of the Indian Ocean and South-East Asia and adjacent seas, extending eastwards to the Torres Strait. Signatories commit to implement the MoU in their a) land territories; b) marine areas under its national jurisdiction; and c) with respect to vessels operating under their flags. For implementation purposes, the area is divided into four sub-regions: South-East Asia + neighbours, Northern Indian Ocean, Northwestern Indian Ocean, and Western Indian Ocean.
Species Coverage Six of the seven marine turtle species that are globally occurring are covered by the MoU, namely: Loggerhead Caretta caretta, Olive Ridley Lepidochelys olivacea, Green Chelonia mydas, Hawksbill Eretmochelys imbricata, Leatherback Dermochelys coriacea, Flatback Natator depressus

States of the Agreement Area (44)


Australia, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, China, Comores, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, France, India, Indonesia, Islamic Republic of Iran, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Kuwait, Madagascar, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritius, Mozambique, Myanmar, Oman, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Saudi Arabia, Seychelles, Singapore, Somalia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Thailand, Timor Leste, United Arab Emirates, United Republic of Tanzania, United Kingdom, Viet Nam, Yemen. The United States of America is also participating in the Memorandum of Understanding.

Signatory States

(Date of signature in parentheses)

Australia (23.06.01), Bahrain (10.12.06), Bangladesh (23.10.03), Cambodia (12.12.02), Comoros (23.06.01), Egypt (17.02.14), Eritrea (24.11.05), France (05.12.08), India (20.02.07), Indonesia (31.03.05), Islamic Republic of Iran (23.06.01), Jordan (18.03.04), Kenya (09.05.02), Madagascar (22.01.03), Malaysia (19.09.11), Maldives (26.04.10), Mauritius (12.07.02), Mozambique (05.12.08), Myanmar (23.06.01), Oman (16.03.04), Pakistan (12.07.04), Papua New Guinea (10.09.10), Philippines (23.06.01), Saudi Arabia (03.08.05), Seychelles (22.01.03), South Africa (22.02.05), Sri Lanka (23.06.01), Sudan (17.02.14), Thailand (12.05.04), United Arab Emirates (18.01.07), United Kingdom (27.03.02), United Republic of Tanzania (23.06.01), United States of America (23.06.01), Viet Nam (24.07.01), Yemen (20.08.08).

Effective Date 1 September 2001. (The MoU becomes effective for new Signatories on the first day of the third month following the date on which they sign.)

The Signatory States held their first formal meeting in Bangkok from 22-24 January 2003. A report is available from the Secretariat.

The Second Meeting of Signatory States was held from 16-19 March 2004. The meeting reviewed, in detail, the progress made towards implementation of the Conservation and Management Plan; endorsed a proposal for the establishment of a network of significant sites; agreed to begin planning for a Year of the Turtle campaign in 2006; revised the geographic scope of the MoU to include China, Japan and the Republic of Korea; and undertook to examine the feasibility of extending the coverage of the MoU to include countries in the Pacific. A report is available on the IOSEA website, under "IOSEA meetings".

The Third Meeting of the Signatory States was held in Bangkok from 29-31 March 2005, and was well attended by about 65 participants. There was representation from all but one of the 21 Signatory States, as well as three non-Signatories and observers from nearly 20 non-governmental and intergovernmental organisations. A full report is available from the IOSEA website (see "IOSEA meetings").

Among the highlights: 
-- Review of the most comprehensive analysis ever undertaken of the measures put in place by IOSEA Signatories to conserve marine turtles and their habitats of the region. 
-- Agreement to proceed with a region-wide Year of the Turtle campaign in 2006 under the IOSEA banner. 
-- Further consideration of a plan to establish a network of sites of importance for marine turtles. 
-- Endorsement of the Secretariat’s proposal to intensify linkages with regional fisheries management bodies, and for IOSEA Signatories to report on their implementation of newly adopted FAO guidelines on reducing turtle mortality in fishing operations.
-- Detailed discussion of other cooperative international actions required to tackle the problem of turtle by-catch in fisheries, and passage of a resolution urging the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission to take concrete steps in this area. 
-- Agreement to investigate the impacts of the Indian Ocean tsunami on marine turtle populations, with particular attention to be given to leatherback turtles; and passage of a resolution calling for sustainable fisheries and coastal development practices in the tsunami’s aftermath, particularly as they relate to marine turtles. 
-- Reconstitution of an expanded Advisory Committee under the new chairmanship of Dr. George Hughes, from South Africa. For the first time, observers chosen from each of the four IOSEA sub-regions will be able contribute to the deliberations. 
-- Agreement to consider further options for extending the IOSEA MoU to include interested countries of the Pacific or to develop a similar instrument for that region.

The Fourth Meeting of the Signatory States was held in Oman from 11-14 March 2006. Hosted by the Ministry of Regional Municipalities, Environment and Water Resources, the conference was the best-attended of any IOSEA meeting to date, with nearly 70 participants from 30 countries. Twenty-two Signatory States and five non-Signatories were officially represented, along with various IGO and NGO partners from across the IOSEA region. 

Among the highlights:
-- Adoption of a resolution aimed at promoting and strengthening marine turtle conservation in the Northwest Indian Ocean  sub-region.  
-- Agreement on provisional terms of reference for the establishment of an IOSEA-Western Indian Ocean Marine Turtle Task Force (WIO-MTTF), to be organized in collaboration with the Nairobi Convention.
-- Indonesia reported on an important initiative to conserve leatherback turtles through a tri-partite agreement between that vast archipelago, Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands, in partnership with WWF.
-- Comprehensive review of implementation progress prepared on the basis of the national reports submitted by Signatory States.  The Secretariat generated an overall performance matrix by objectively analysing all of the activities reported to have been undertaken to implement the IOSEA Conservation and Management Plan.  The detailed review is contained in Document 8.3, circulated prior to the meeting.  An executive summary distills the main findings; and a one-page addendum summarises a number of key issues that were identified.  
--Tabling of an advanced draft of an “Assessment of the conservation status of the Leatherback turtle in the Indian Ocean and South-East Asia, including consideration of the impacts of the December 2004 tsunami on turtles and turtle habitats”.  The report suggested that the long-term impacts of the tsunami for turtles could be expected to be marginal, whereas in the immediate-term coastal communities and associated conservation programmes had been profoundly affected.  The report also revealed gaps in information and basic collaborative work that needed to be addressed, in part through additional research, monitoring, and enforcement of legislation.  
-- The meeting considered a number of important administrative and policy issues, notably the uncertain financial prospects for continuing operations into 2007 despite the generous voluntary contributions of a small number of Signatory States.  
-- The Advisory Committee was reconstituted with a membership of six experts under the new chairmanship of Dr. Jack Frazier. The Committee’s terms of reference were amended slightly to clarify the nomination procedure for members, and to welcome official observers from each of the sub-regions, decided by the member States, as follows: Philippines (for South-East Asia+); Sri Lanka (for Northern Indian Ocean); Islamic Republic of Iran (for Northwestern Indian Ocean); and Comoros (for Western Indian Ocean). 

The Fifth Meeting of the Signatory States was held in Bali, Indonesia from 20-23 August 2008. 26 Signatory States -- the entire IOSEA membership, except for one country -- were officially represented at the meeting, the highest number to date. Advisory Committee members, invited experts, and observers from non-Signatory States as well as intergovernmental and non-governmental organisations rounded out the attendance. The gathering of 100 delegates was the largest IOSEA conference held so far, and it marked the second time the meeting was organised in one of the four IOSEA sub-regions, outside of the secretariat’s Bangkok headquarters. A full report is available from the IOSEA website (see "IOSEA meetings").

Among the highlights:
- Screening of the public version of the new IOSEA DVD, also broadcasted to more than a dozen countries throughout the Asia-Pacific region.
- Presentation of the Secretariat’s review of IOSEA implementation progress, prepared on the basis of information contained in the online national reports submitted by Signatory States. Implementation and/or reporting of actions undertaken within the framework of the IOSEA MoU were reported to have improved markedly since 2006.
- Report on the upgrading of the content and interface of the IOSEA website.
- Substantial discussion of the proposed Network of Sites of Importance for Marine Turtles. The Advisory Committee made good progress in drawing up a basic list of criteria for site selection and questions about the fundamental nature of the “network” or “list” of sites were carried over to the SS5 plenary. The Meeting agreed that an IOSEA List of Sites should be developed to give recognition to a limited number of sites of critical ecological importance to marine turtles.
- For the first time, incorporation of two 3/4 day-long workshops into the programme of the conference: one focusing on coastal development issues and the other on fisheries-turtle interactions and mitigation options.
- Adoption of a “Resolution to Promote the Use of Marine Turtle Bycatch Reduction Measures by IOSEA Signatory States”, introduced by the United States.
- Emphasis on the value of national networks or committees, and introduction of examples from around the region.
- Explanations on the reasons for the lack of progress made in the compilation of species assessments for Loggerhead and Green turtles.
- Description of the excellent progress made in 2007 and early 2008 to formally establish and convene a first meeting of the Western Indian Ocean – Marine Turtle Task Force (MMT-WWF), in collaboration with the Nairobi Convention and WWF-Tanzania.
- Outlining of the immediate financial prospects for the operations of the MoU and lengthy discussion on how to address the financial situation over the longer term.
- Reconstitution of the IOSEA Advisory Committee: departure of three long-serving members: Drs. George Hughes, Jeanne Mortimer, Nyawira Muthiga, and nomination of four new members: Drs. Mark Hamann, Valerie Lilette, Jeff Miller, and Kartik Shanker.

The Sixth Meeting of the Signatory States was held in Bangkok, Thailand from 23-27 January 2012. 23 Signatory States were officially represented, along with a nearly full contingent of Advisory Committee members, as well as invited experts and observers from various intergovernmental and non-governmental organisations. Overall, nearly 70 participants from 26 countries attended the meeting. A full report is available from the IOSEA website (see "IOSEA meetings").

Among the highlights:
- Presentation of the Secretariat’s overview of IOSEA implementation progress, based on an exhaustive analysis of information submitted by Signatory States in their national reports. More than 80 percent of Signatory States were reported to have improved their implementation and reporting of IOSEA Conservation and Management Plan measures.
- Report from the Secretariat on the development of the site network proposal and of a new technical support / capacity-building programme; on the introduction and enhancement of online tools, such as the IOSEA Satellite Tracking Metadatabase and the Online Bibliography Resource; and on improvements of the online IOSEA database since 2008.
- Agreement to identify five highest priority issues for IOSEA to address in the immediate future: (1) investigation of illegal direct take of marine turtles; (2) identification of index beaches associated with genetic stocks; (3) capacity-building in support of Signatory State efforts; (4) investigation of indirect take in legal fisheries; and (5) socio-economic considerations of relevance to marine turtle conservation.
- Finalisation of the proposal to create a Network of Sites of Importance for Marine Turtles in the IOSEA region, and adoption of a resolution that sets out a schedule for finalising the selection criteria for the network, soliciting site nominations from Signatory States, and proceeding with the formal launch of the network at the next meeting of Signatory States.
- Stress on the need for Signatory States to undertake more systematic exchange of information and closer collaboration and coordination of activities.
- Organisation of two workshops: one on satellite tracking in the IOSEA region and the other on climate change impacts and related mitigation strategies.
- Two expert presentations: one on the use of spatial planning tools to identify areas of high conservation priority for sea turtles, delivered by Dr. Ronel Nel; and the other on various innovative information systems for exchanging data on sea turtles, presented by Prof. Pat Halpin.
- Update from Dr. Mark Hamann on progress towards finalising a long-anticipated assessment of the conservation status of loggerhead turtles, and revisiting of the leatherback assessment from 2006.
- Adoption of the ‘Terms of Reference and Guidance for IOSEA Focal Points’, which clarify the general roles and responsibilities of IOSEA national and sub-regional Focal Points, and offer guidance to assist Focal Points in their intersessional work, as well as in the preparation for future meetings of the Signatory States. The IOSEA sub-regional Focal Points were reconfirmed as follows: Indonesia (for South-East Asia+), India (for Northern Indian Ocean); United Arab Emirates (for Northwest Indian Ocean); and Madagascar (for Western Indian Ocean).

The Seventh Meeting of the Signatory States was held in Bonn, Germany from 8-11 September 2014. 23 Signatory States – about one third of the IOSEA membership – were officially represented at the meeting, gathering more than 50 participants. Six of the eight Advisory Committee members, invited experts and observers from various intergovernmental and non-governmental organisations rounded out the attendance. The meeting was preceded by a three-day session of the IOSEA Advisory Committee and a one-day session of the Western Indian Ocean - Marine Turtle Task Force (WIO-MTTF). A full report is available from the IOSEA website (see "IOSEA meetings").

Among the highlights:
- Launch of the IOSEA Network of Sites of Importance for Marine Turtles, culminating many years of intensive preparatory work. 10 sites were accepted for inclusion in the Network, of which six would only become published on the IOSEA website after certain amendments to their supporting documentation had been effected. A working group was set up to revise the Site Network Information Sheet template and the Evaluation Criteria in the months following the meeting. Several participants volunteered to form the initial core of a steering committee tasked with securing long-term financial support for site-based activities.
- Presentation of the Secretariat’s review of IOSEA implementation progress, prepared on the basis of information contained in the online national reports submitted by 33 Signatory States (Egypt and Sudan had only recently joined the MoU and were therefore not able to submit their reports). About half of the Signatories were reported to have made substantial progress towards fulfilling their reporting requirements since 2012.
- Presentation of four substantive papers arising from requests of the Sixth Meeting of IOSEA Signatory States. A paper prepared by the Secretariat on ‘Illegal Take and Trade of Marine Turtles in the IOSEA Region’ highlighted the prevalence of poaching in South-East Asia involving Chinese and Vietnamese fishermen, particularly in the Coral Triangle area, to supply markets in mainland China, Taiwan and Japan. A second paper on ‘Marine Turtle Genetic Stocks of the Indo-Pacific’, co-authored by Dr. Colin Limpus, presented the current state of knowledge about marine turtle stocks in the IOSEA region. A third paper on ‘Socio-economic and Cultural Implications of Marine Turtle Use and Conservation’ covered a multitude of topics with a social, economic or cultural dimension. A fourth paper on ‘Indian Ocean Fisheries-Turtle Interactions’ illustrated the potential contribution of Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) national reports towards understanding of marine turtle bycatch issues in the Indian Ocean, including the efficacy of by-catch mitigation measures undertaken by IOTC members.
- Presentation of an in-depth review of the history, methods and challenges faced in the development of the IOSEA Technical Support / Capacity-building Programme, the ultimate objective of which is to ensure that all Signatories are self-sufficient.
- Consideration of the comprehensive assessments of leatherback and loggerhead turtles that had been updated or completed in 2012 and 2013, respectively. Discussion of plans for a similar assessment to be made for the hawksbill turtle.
- Two workshops, one addressing the pervasive problem of artificial light pollution and the other on ‘Stakeholder Engagement through the Community Voice Method’.
- Expert presentations concerning market forces driving marine turtle trade in China and Japan; and projects in the IOSEA region funded by the United States Marine Turtle Conservation Act of 2004,.
- Introduction of the main features of the IOSEA website, and particularly on the new International Flipper Tag Recovery database launched in 2013.
- Emphasis on the value of national networks or committees, and introduction of examples from around the region.
- Outlining of the immediate financial prospects for the operations of the MoU.
- Reconstitution of the IOSEA Advisory Committee: re-nomination of four existing members, Drs. Jack Frazier, Jeffrey Miller, Colin Limpus and Mark Hamann, who will continue to serve alongside Dr. Manjula Tiwari, and nomination of three new members, Mr. Robert Baldwin, Mr. Jérôme Bourjea and Dr. Ronel Nel.
- Discussion of the proposed arrangements for the IOSEA Secretariat during the special leave of the Co-ordinator, beginning in October 2014.

Finance Voluntary contributions, primarily from the Governments of Australia, France, India, Mauritius, Myanmar, Oman, South Africa, Thailand, United Kingdom, United States; as well as start-up support from UNEP and CMS.
Advisory Committee Currently eight members with expertise from various disciplines, appointed by the Signatory States. The most recent (seventh) meeting of the Advisory Committee was held in Bonn, Germany, in September 2014.


(Operational since
April 2003)

Co-ordinator / CMS Advisor: Ms.Clara Nobbe

IOSEA Marine Turtle MoU - Interim Secretariat
Temporary address through October 2015:
c/o UNEP/CMS Secretariat, Platz der Vereinten Nationen 1
53113 Bonn, Germany

Tel: (+49) 228 815 2489; Fax: (+49) 228 815 2449
E-mail: iosea(at)un.org

Until October 2014, Douglas Hykle was assuming the function of IOSEA Co-ordinator / Senior CMS Advisor at the following address:

c/o UNEP Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific
United Nations Building, Rajdamnern Nok Avenue
Bangkok 10200, Thailand

Languages The official texts exist in three language versions (Arabic, English and French); the working language of the MoU is English.


UNEP © IOSEA Marine Turtle MoU Secretariat, c/o UNEP Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific,
United Nations Building, Rajdamnern Nok Avenue, Bangkok, 10200, Thailand
Tel: + (662) 288 1471 ; Fax: + (662) 288 3041 / 288 1029; E-mail: IOSEA Secretariat
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