Marine Ecosystems

Myanmar’s main coastline of approximately 2,400 km is still largely intact and relatively pristine, in contrast to much of Southeast Asia. The three main coastal areas, from north to south, are the Rakhine Coast (from the mouth of the Naaf River in the very north of the country to Mawtin Point, about 740 km), the Ayeyawady Delta region (from Mawtin Point to the Gulf of Mottama, about 460 km) and the Taninthayi Coast (from the Gulf of Mottama to the mouth of the Pakchan River in the very south, about 1,200 km). There are also more than 1,700 islands.

Few assessments have been done to determine the status of marine species and habitats along Myanmar's coast.  Similarly, while fisheries provide the dominant livelihoods in many of these coastal regions, the extent and sustainability of those fisheries is unknown.

Giant marine tortoise in the Andaman sea. Photo © Andy Mann / 3 Strings Productions

Myanmar's coastal waters are thought to harbor some of the world’s most important marine biodiversity. The near-shore areas and offshore islands provide habitat for populations of globally threatened marine turtles. In the northwest, vast seagrass beds and a large portion of Southeast Asia’s remaining mangrove forest provide critical habitat for a range of species, including dugong, while the southern waters of the Myeik Archipelago in the Taninthayi Region are noted for their rich coral reefs.

WCS staff taking annotations of the conservation status of the reefs near the Myeik islands. Photo 

© Andy Mann / 3 Strings Productions

By aligning with Myanmar’s commitments under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the Convention for International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), our marine program is focused on supporting Myanmar to secure a sustainable future for its marine resources through four strategic pillars:

1) Multi-sector Marine Spatial Planning;
2) Sustainable Fisheries;
3) Thriving Wildlife; 
4) Environmental Safeguards.

Working with public and private partners, and by leveraging regulatory and market mechanisms, our vision for Myanmar is to harmonize conservation and economic developments towards securing a sustainable Blue Economy.

Sustainable Blue Economy

A sustainable ocean economy emerges when economic activity is in balance with the long-term capacity of ocean ecosystems to support this activity and remain resilient and healthy. (The Economist Intelligence Unit, 2015)

In support of that vision, our marine research and conservation objectives include:

  • Conduct targeted biodiversity and habitat surveys and assessments along Myanmar’s coast;
  • Design and deliver a participatory, multi-sector National Marine Spatial Planning process;
  • Assess near-shore and offshore fisheries legislation and practices to inform fisheries governance reform;
  • Enable fisheries co-management planning and implementation;
  • Design, implement and test innovative financing and market-based fisheries conservation and restoration models;
  • Secure a comprehensive Marine Protected Area network;
  • Co-design mechanisms for robust environmental sensitivity mapping, response planning and Environmental Impact Assessments appraisals;
  • Design marine species protection strategies, including for sharks, rays, turtles and dugong; and,
  • Support national capacity for marine research and conservation.

For further information, please download our synthesis report: Current knowledge and research recommendations for Marine Conservation in Myanmar.


WCS expedition in the Myeik archipelago reviewing the survey planning. Photo (c) Andy Mann / 3 Strings Productions