Located on the coast of southwestern Cambodia, the Peam Krasop Wildlife Sanctuary harbours one of the largest undisturbed mangrove forests in Southeast Asia. The sanctuary’s magnificent mangroves are anchored in the bays and channels that weave among the many islands, protecting the coastline from erosion, providing vital habitat for marine species, and sheltering migratory bird species. The distinctive Irrawady dolphin and finless porpoise can be found swimming in the waterways of the sanctuary, a worthy attraction for both local and international tourists.
Aside from the beauty and biodiversity in Peam Krasop, the mangroves support the needs and livelihoods of almost 10,000 people who live in the area. In Old Peam Krasop village people are highly dependent on the mangroves as they harvest fish and other aquatic resources found among the mangrove forests.
Though it was declared a wildlife sanctuary in 1993, the sanctuary and its mangroves continue to be threatened. Mangroves have been extensively cleared for wood to produce charcoal and to make way for aquaculture industries. Unsustainable fishing practices, such as the use of push nets, and waste pollution are also placing increasing pressure on marine resources.
While some communities, like the people of Old Peam Krasop, realise that the mangroves protect them from stormy seas and minimise land erosion, others may not be so aware of the services that mangroves provide. This lack of awareness, coupled with a lack of regulations to conserve and manage resource use in different areas, continues to threaten the integrity of the sanctuary and the lives of the people dependent on its resources.
As a step towards addressing these challenges, Mangroves for the Future (MFF) and IUCN have assisted the Department of Coastal and Marine Conservation of the Ministry of Environment, as well as Koh Kong Provincial authorities, to develop a management plan to better conserve and protect the sanctuary.
Developed with the input of communities who live in Peam Krasop, the plan lays out specific actions to address the causes leading to the destruction of the mangrove forest and illegal fishing. This includes improving the enforcement of regulations, developing sustainable harvesting systems, and helping communities diversify their livelihoods to reduce pressure on mangrove ecosystems.
MFF is helping the local government to achieve these priority actions by raising public awareness of management regulations and establishing community waste management systems. The next step is to get other partners onboard to support implementation of the management plan and investing in the future of Peam Krasop Wildlife Sanctuary.
“It is great news that Peam Krasop Wildlife Sanctuary has its own management plan. This plan serves to guide the government, local communities and NGOs and enhance efforts for the conservation of coastal and marine resources, especially mangrove forests in Peam Krasop,” said Mr Thay Chantha, Director of the Department of Marine and Coastal Conservation in Cambodia.
MFF has been implementing activities to lessen impacts on Peam Krasop mangrove forests since 2015. This includes projects to reduce the cutting of mangroves such as installing small biogas digesters in local communities to power cooking stoves and household lights, introducing more efficient cooking stoves that require less fuel wood, and helping communities replant mangroves to protect them from the effects of climate change.
This story was contributed by Vanny Lou, IUCN Cambodia Programme Officer. Vanny drafted the piece following the IUCN Asia Strategic Communications for Conservation Workshop in Bangkok, Thailand, which took place in July.
Mangroves for the Future (MFF) is a partnership-based regional initiative which promotes investment in coastal ecosystem conservation for sustainable development. MFF focuses on the role that healthy, well-managed coastal ecosystems play in building the resilience of ecosystem-dependent coastal communities in Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Pakistan, Seychelles, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Viet Nam. The initiative uses mangroves as a flagship ecosystem, but MFF is inclusive of all types of coastal ecosystem, such as coral reefs, estuaries, lagoons, sandy beaches, sea grasses and wetlands. MFF is co-chaired by IUCN and UNDP, and is funded by Danida, Norad, and Sida and the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Thailand.