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Country Overview

Myanmar is the largest country in mainland Southeast Asia and is located between China, India, and Thailand. To the West, along a 1,930 km coastline (CIA, 2013) is the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal. The total area of Myanmar is 678,500 km2 where 657,740 km2 occupies the land and 20,760 km2 occupies the water which provides critical spawning habitats, nursery grounds and feeding areas for marine and aquatic species (Myanmar CBD Report, 2009).

Myanmar has a rich coral reefs, seagrass beds and mangrove flourish, particularly around the Myeik archipelago. Estuaries and mud flats are common at the Ayeyarwady delta, while beach and dunes occur throughout the coastline.

The fisheries sector plays a critical role in the national economy and local food security (Myanmar CBD Report, 2009). Coastal communities rely upon marine resources for their livelihoods, and the sector is thought to indirectly benefit over 2 million people (Pe, 2004). Fisheries products are the country’s fourth largest foreign exchange earner, and while no precise figures are available, shrimp most likely dominates exports (Pe, 2004). Like neighbouring Bangladesh, Myanmar is also heavily dependent upon the hilsa fishery (Tenualosa ilisha), both for local consumption and export purposes (Pe, 2004).

MPAs in Myanmar

The establishment of protected areas in Myanmar includes national parks, shark protection areas, wildlife sanctuaries and mangrove reserves. MPAs have been designed to protect Myanmar’s biodiversity including coral reefs, mangroves, threatened species, and also to sustain the fisheries resources. The map above shows the distribution of MPAs in Myanmar and MPA database lists them.

The first official marine conservation efforts in Myanmar started in 1927, when the government established the Moscos Wildlife Sanctuary in south eastern Myanmar in order to protect coastal flora and fauna (Rao, 2001). This protected area spans 49.21 km2, and was designated in order to protect turtle species and water birds.

There are numerous government agencies that share responsibility when it comes to marine protected areas. While the Ministry of Forestry is mandated to govern all protected areas (in both marine and terrestrial environments), the Fishery Department, Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries and the Defense Ministry (army and navy) also share responsibilities over the governance of non-forest and marine resources (UP MSI et al., 2002; Rao, 2001).

Within the Ministry of Forestry, the Nature and Wildlife Conservation Division (NWCD) is charged with PA management. This Division was created in 1990, in part out of response to recommendations from the 1981 – 1984 FAO-UNDP Nature Conservation and National Parks Project (Aung, 2007).

References
  • Aung, U. Myint. 2007. Policy and practice in Myanmar’s protected area system. Journal of Environmental Management. 84. pp. 188 – 203.
  • BOBLME. 2011. Status of Marine Protected Areas and Fish Refugia in the Bay of Bengal Large Marine Ecosystem. BOBLME – 2011 – Ecology – 10.
  • Government of Myanmar. 2009. Myanmar’s Fourth National Report to the Convention on Biological Diversity. (Ed) Nay Pyi Taw. Ministry of Forestry, National Commission for Environmental Affairs. 108 pp.
  • UP-MSI, ABC, ARCBC, DENR, ASEAN. 2002. Marine Protected Areas in Southeast Asia. ASEAN Regional Centre for Biodiversity Conservation, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Los Baños, Philippines. 142 pp., 10 maps.
  • Pe, Myint. 2004. National report of Myanmar on sustainable management of the Bay of Bengal large marine ecosystem. Prepared under the BOBLME Programme of the UN FAO. 61 pages.
  • Rao, M., Rabinowitz, A. and Saw Tun Khaing. 2002. Status review of the protected-area system in Myanmar, with recommendations for conservation planning. Conservation Biology 16 (2), 360–368.
  • World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA). 2013. http://www.protectedplanet.net/ last accessed October 2013
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