Overfishing, habitat loss and the effects of climate change together pose a major threat to a significant portion of marine species in the Arafura and Timor Seas (ATS) region. In response, regional cooperation and transboundary management of marine megafauna, vital ecosystems and economically significant fish species are sorely needed. In respect to the unique circumstances of each ATS country, ATSEA-2 decided to conduct a series of workshops to better understand marine and coastal status, causes and impacts. 

Based on the identified preliminary list of priority transboundary environmental issues for the ATS region from the Regional Working Group (RWG) Kick-Off Workshop, the RWG engaged in a series of Causal Chain Analysis (CCA) workshops throughout September 2022. The workshops were conducted online and focused on three selected priority issues: marine pollution (8 September), ecosystem and biodiversity decline (15 September) and unsustainable fisheries (22 September).  

With the facilitation of the Regional Transboundary Diagnostic Analysis (TDA) Consultant, Mr. Matthew Fox, the CCA workshops refined key elements of the identified priority transboundary issues in three different areas, namely unsustainable fisheries; ecosystem, habitat and biodiversity decline; and pollution of marine and coastal environments. Further analyses on the issues were also performed during the CCA workshops to reveal root causes, direct and indirect drivers, and ecological and socioeconomic impacts.

A final workshop was held on 29 September to allow for review and refinement of the draft CCA outputs by the RWG and to discuss initial strategic actions and recommendations for addressing the identified priority transboundary issues. 

The RWG members were joined in the CCA workshops by representatives of the National Project Directors, National Coordination Units, National TDA Consultants and the ATSEA-2 Regional Project Management Unit, led by Dr. Handoko Adi Susanto, ATSEA-2 Regional Project Manager.

The results of the CCA workshops will be consolidated into a Causal Chain Analysis Report that will inform the draft Updated ATS TDA. The CCA Report will be presented to the 4th ATSEA-2 Regional Steering Committee (RSC) Meeting, to be held in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea from 2–3 November 2022. This will provide confirmation of the priority transboundary issues identified.

The CCA workshops were a continuation of national and regional TDA consultation meetings, aimed at reviewing the draft country synthesis reports together with the ATS TDA-SAP National Working Groups (NWGs). Collectively, they will address any outstanding gaps or issues in the drafts.

Considering the recommendations from the RSC, the draft Updated ATS TDA will be completed and disseminated to the NWG members for review in national and regional TDA validation workshops, to be conducted from December 2022 to February 2023, after which, a refined version of the document will be submitted to the RSC for final review. Final completion of Updated ATS TDA is targeted for the end of March 2023. 

ATSEA-2 is the second phase of the Arafura & Timor Seas Ecosystem Action (ATSEA) Program; a regional partnership involving the governments of Indonesia, Timor-Leste and Papua New Guinea, with the support of the Australian Government. Since its inception in 2019, the Program has been working to improve the quality of life of people in the ATS region through a combination of restoration, conservation and sustainable management of marine-coastal ecosystems. ATSEA-2 is committed to safeguarding the livelihoods and prosperity of coastal people, particularly in its transboundary areas, through the implementation of sustainable integrated concepts.

(By Cristine Ingrid Narcise)