The 4th International Conference on Integrated Coastal Management & Marine Biotechnology (ICMMBT) organised on 12 and 13 September 2023 in Bali, Indonesia. The conference provided a global platform for the exchange of practical solutions, innovative approaches and cutting-edge research in coastal and ocean management and governance. 

The 4th ICMMBT convened experts and thought leaders committed to advancing sustainable blue economies and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). A key feature of the event was the ATSEA-2 Plenary Session, which highlighted some of the Project’s key achievements to date, such as implementing the current Strategic Action Program (SAP), updating the Transboundary Diagnostic Analysis (TDA), drafting the second SAP for the next decade and establishing a Regional Governance Mechanism (RGM). 

The Plenary Session provided an opportunity to present the TDA for the Arafura and Timor Seas (ATS) region and a new ATS Atlas, while also exploring ongoing contributions to governance and biodiversity in the region and the role of science in policy making. This session aimed to introduce ATSEA-2 initiatives, showcase progress in SAP implementation and gather insights from ATS countries into the region’s future beyond 2024.

Actions Firmly Grounded in Scientific Insights

ATSEA-2 speakers (left to right): Casandra Tania, Dr Handoko Adi Susanto and Cristine Ingrid Narcise

Speakers at the discussion included Regional Biodiversity Specialist Casandra Tania and Policy and Results-based Management Specialist Cristine Ingrid Narcise, who detailed how the interface between science and governance contributes to strengthening ATS ecosystem carrying capacity. From a biodiversity perspective, Tania noted that the ATS region “continues to face serious challenges, including unsustainable fishing practices, pollution from both land and sea, habitat deterioration, the loss of key species, and the impacts of climate change.” 

She also noted that recent findings from ATSEA-2 studies have “played a pivotal role in shaping regional and local strategies, and contributed to the ongoing update of the TDA and SAP, thereby ensuring our management plans and actions are firmly grounded in scientific insights.” 

Narcise highlighted the importance of an RGM to regional collaboration, referring to ATS countries’ recent adoption of this mechanism as “a crucial step towards shifting from a project-centric strategy to a sustainable, nation-driven regional partnership.” This model will be formally adopted by the countries through a ministerial forum scheduled to take place in 2024.

The final session was presented by Dr Susanto, who illustrated how ATSEA-2 initiatives have helped connect science to policies through the TDA-SAP process. Focusing on three priority transboundary issues and 11 fundamental concerns identified in the updated TDA, the draft updated SAP addresses four key transboundary issues: marine plastic pollution, oil spills, small-scale IUU fishing, and ETP species and critical habitats. He noted that the TDA-SAP process, combined with the RGM as undertaken by ATSEA-2, “provides an example of how science interfaces with governance to ensure a more holistic approach in setting clear and targeted collaborations and interventions.”

Teamwork, Creativity and a Shared Commitment 

Celebrating the Launch: the 4th ICMMBT Opening in Bali,12 September 2023. Prof Dr Arif Satria, Rector of IPB University,
leading the inaugural ceremony with distinguished speakers

To conclude the ATSEA-2 Plenary Session, Dr Aprilia from UNDP Indonesia delivered the closing remarks, highlighting the crucial connections between three key aspects of the ATSEA-2 Project. “We must recognise the importance of having current scientific knowledge, a strategic action plan and a governance mechanism working together,” said Dr Aprilia, who stressed that these elements are foundational for future ATS collaborations. 

She also emphasised the significance of community involvement and ATS countries’ dedication to long-term collaboration, before calling for teamwork, creativity and a shared commitment to ensure a sustainable and prosperous future for the ATS region. In closing, she thanked all participants, organisers and contributors for their dedication to preserving the region’s oceans and coasts.

The ATSEA-2 Plenary Session at the 4th ICMMBT International Conference served as a platform for knowledge sharing, collaboration and the strengthening of existing partnerships. It highlighted the vital connection between scientific assessments and policymaking, while also focusing on a number of key milestones on the road to sustainability and prosperity; collective efforts that are helping to preserve marine resources and promote sustainable coastal management in the ATS region. This journey continues, toward a more sustainable and resilient future.

By Stella Yovita Arya Puteri and Casandra Tania