Coastal and marine resources provide a wide range of essential ecological, economic and social beneﬁts worldwide. This is particularly apparent within the region covered by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). These marine waters provide livelihoods directly and indirectly to millions of people, provide food, serve as sinks for materials from land-based sources, maintain environmental cycles, regulate climatic conditions, and maintain the complex ecological balance of the array of marine and estuarine ecosystems that characterise the region. Any degradation of the key biological or physical processes and ecosystem resources can lead to long term deleterious and sometimes irreversible impacts on the socio-economic opportunities and environmental and human health of the region.
ASEAN has a coastline of 173,000 km with a total area of 4.5 million km2 and, as of 2006, the ASEAN region has a population of about 560 million, a combined gross domestic product of around US$ 1,200 billion, and a total trade of about US$ 1,400 billion. As well it has 35% of the world’s mangrove forests, and about 30% of the coral reefs. Therefore sustainably managing the coastal and marine resources as well as maintaining the water quality on which they depend has been a high priority for ASEAN over the last several decades. Marine and estuarine water quality represents signiﬁcant environmental issues within countries across the ASEAN region.
Recognising the commonalities of the underpinning problems and solutions, and their management, member states have been making concerted effort to develop a harmonised framework of approach within ASEAN. The Hanoi Plan of Action (1999-2004) (HPA) called for the development of a framework to improve regional coordination for the integrated protection and management of coastal zones, development of a regional action plan for the protection of the marine environment from land-based and sea-based activities, and promote regional coordination to protect Marine Heritage Parks and Reserves.