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East Asia Seas Regional EBSA Workshop

The 12th Regional EBSA Workshop to facilitate description of Ecologically or Biologically Significant Areas took place in Xiamen, China, hosted by the Government of China (Ministry of Environmental Protection) from 14 to 18 December 2015. The Workshop was preceded by a training event covering scientific aspects of EBSA criteria and potential use of EBSA information to support implementation of the ecosystem approach. The geographic scope of the Workshop overlapped with the North-East Indian Ocean workshop with respect to the waters of Myanmar that had not been fully considered previously.

Following what is now a well-established precedent, this Workshop organised technical considerations within three sub-groups: intertidal areas, nearshore areas and open-ocean/deep sea areas. At the outset these considerations were informed by scientific presentations pertinent to the region and explaining data available to participants. Southeast Asia is recognised as a global hot spot for marine biodiversity. The Workshop acknowledged this endorsing an overview of the ecological or biological significance of the entire region in relation to other regions globally. The overview outlined the importance of varied bathymetry (from shallow continental shelf shorelines to deep ocean trenches), diversity of physical features including numerous islands, highly dynamic water circulation patterns, extensive coastlines including major deltas, and highly diverse reef systems. The region includes the Coral Triangle with exceptional concentrations of species, many of which are endemic. The deep-sea pelagic environment supports important spawning areas and migratory species of seabirds, mammals and turtles. 

The Workshop was also informed about the East Asian-Australasian Flyway Partnership (EAAFP). Mr Spike Millington representing EAAFP explained that some 50 million migratory waterbirds of more than 250 populations depend on sites within this Flyway, now threatened by loss and degradation of intertidal habitat, particularly due to reclamation in East Asia. Mr Millington proposed that a network of intertidal sites might constitute a single area meeting EBSA criteria, particularly stressing the importance of connectivity. 

The workshop described more than 30 areas meeting the EBSA criteria. An important contribution was a national EBSA description process undertaken by the Government of Japan that had compiled ecological information in the South Asia region. The outcome of this Workshop, together with EBSA descriptions from both the Northeast and Northwest Indian Ocean Workshops will be considered by SBSTTA 20 (25-29 April, 2016) and, subject to any recommendations, at CBD COP 13 in December 2016. 

GOBI participants included colleagues from the Commonwealth Scientific, Industrial and Research Organisation (CSIRO) and the GOBI Secretariat. CSIRO collated scientific information providing technical support to the Workshop and summarised the bioregions of the Seas of East Asia as described by the Marine Ecoregions of the World. EBSA Workshops have developed over time, recalling and interpreting COP guidance on EBSA criteria. GOBI Partners were able to assist the Secretariat to ensure consistency between workshops and by providing examples of previous decisions. GOBI also contributed to the workshop discussion on identification of gaps and need for further elaboration of EBSA descriptions. Scientific gaps were identified by each of the three sub-groups and the complexity of nearshore habitats was emphasised as a challenge.

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