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World Oceans Day at Daem Thkov Village, Koh Rong. FFI’s Leng Phalla talking to the children about sea turtles. Credit: Louisa McKerrow/FFI.

Celebrating seagrass and mangroves in Cambodia

Posted on: 23.06.15 (Last edited) 27 July 2015

Through blistering sunshine and a tropical downpour the Fauna & Flora International (FFI) coastal and marine conservation team in Cambodia kept on smiling throughout World Oceans Day, 8 June 2015!

World Ocean’s Day 2015, started like most other days on Koh Rong Island – to the sound of roosters, seemingly trying to outdo each other’s “doodle doo!” But quickly, the bubble of children’s voices overtook this sound, as adults and children across the island gathered with excited anticipation for what the day held.

To celebrate World Oceans Day this year, FFI’s coastal and marine conservation project team in Cambodia worked with partners, the Fisheries Administration (FiA) and Song Saa Foundation (SSF), to run activities in two villages on Koh Rong Island – Daem Thokov and Prek Svay.

These were ideal locations for rallying support and action to protect the ocean. For instance, Daem Thkov Community Fishery Area contains the largest seagrass bed in the Koh Rong Archipelago – an ecosystem that acts as a huge carbon store, and provides critical habitat for juvenile fish, charismatic seahorses and sea turtles.

Celebrations at Prek Svay Village, Koh Rong Island. Credit: Louisa McKerrow/FFI.

Celebrations at Prek Svay Village, Koh Rong Island. Credit: Louisa McKerrow/FFI.

At Prek Svay, the community gathered early in the morning to begin the day’s activities. Children huddled around a video about litter control and the importance of mangrove ecosystems. The theme of World Oceans Day – ‘protecting coastal and marine resources’ provided an excellent opportunity to present the Prek Svay Community Fishery Patrol team with new uniforms and lifejackets, which will be used on their regular patrols of the area.

Handing new uniforms and lifejackets to Fisheries Patrol at Prek Svay Village , Koh Rong Island. From left, Chea Phallin (FFI), Hoc Laim (FiA), Kate West (FFI), Tong Ne (Community Fishery), Reun Veasna (Community Fishery), Youn Mon (Community Fishery). Credit: Louisa McKerrow/FFI.

Handing new uniforms and lifejackets to Fisheries Patrol at Prek Svay Village , Koh Rong Island. From left, Chea Phallin (FFI), Hoc Laim (FiA), Kate West (FFI), Tong Ne (Community Fishery), Reun Veasna (Community Fishery), Youn Mon (Community Fishery). Credit: Louisa McKerrow/FFI.

By mid-morning, armed with spades, poles and string, the 80 strong group (coordinated by SSF) headed out of the village to begin mangrove planting under the blistering sun and cloudless sky. Children, women and men all joined in to plant the saplings as part of plans to reforest mangrove areas that have been lost to human activities or periods of intense drought.

Meanwhile, in Daem Thkov, community members participated in a sea turtle workshop run by FFI and FiA, where a new banner about turtle lifecycle, threats, safe handling and safe release, was unveiled and presented to the community, where it will remain. An art competition for the younger participants was coordinated by FFI’s Communities and Awareness officer, Ms Phalla Leng. This was followed by a beach clean-up and presentations about seagrass habitat and the importance of protecting this site. The Daem Thkov Community Fishery Patrol team members were also given new uniforms and lifejackets.

World Oceans Day at Daem Thkov Village, Koh Rong . Art competition winners with FFI’s Kate West and Leng Phalla. Credit: Louisa McKerrow/FFI.

World Oceans Day at Daem Thkov Village, Koh Rong . Art competition winners with FFI’s Kate West and Leng Phalla. Credit: Louisa McKerrow/FFI.

After a sunny morning, the afternoon brought the monsoon rains as a team of FFI, FiA and SSF staff travelled by boat from Prek Svay to Daem Thkov to join activities. The torrential downpour and thundering skies soaked everyone to the skin, but it didn’t stop the momentum of the day. As the team bundled off the boat, dripping wet, presentations continued and the day was rounded-off with the prizes for the turtle art competition.

The afternoon of 8th June brought the monsoon rains as a team of FFI, FiA and SSF staff travelled from Prek Svay to Daem Thkov. Credit: Chea Phallin,/FFI.

The afternoon of 8th June brought the monsoon rains as a team of FFI, FiA and SSF staff travelled from Prek Svay to Daem Thkov. Credit: Chea Phallin,/FFI.

As the boat returned to Prek Svay later that afternoon, the team reflected on the success of the day. I felt proud to be a part of a celebration that was about communities and organisations coming together to share knowledge and make efforts to protect our marine and coastal resources.

Beyond World Oceans Day

FFI works to improve the management of Cambodia’s severely threatened coastal and marine ecosystems. Our team collaborates closely with the FiA on species and habitat conservation, including the protection of coral reefs and the Critically Endangered hawksbill turtle. Our goal is to put the necessary tools, skills and management structures in place to establish the country’s first model large-scale marine protected area (MPA) in the Koh Rong Archipelago – with support from the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation and Arcadia.

The proposed MPA will encompass over 400 km2 of ocean, including fringing reefs, mangroves and seagrass beds. The aim is to achieve sustainable use of fisheries resources, while encouraging tourism, contributing to poverty reduction, and maintaining a healthy ecosystem.

Alongside this work to make fishing practices more sustainable in the archipelago, we are also running a series of training workshops on the safe handling and release of sea turtles, to reduce the number of these animals killed through accidental capture in fishing nets. This work is supported by the US Fish & Wildlife Service.

Written by
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Kate West

Kate West is Project Manager of FFI Cambodia’s Coastal & Marine Conservation Project. After graduating from the University of Oxford with a degree in Biological Sciences, Kate worked on a small island nature reserve in the Seychelles before returning to study for a Conservation Science Masters at Imperial College London. Her Masters research took her to the coastlines of Senegal and Guinea in search of the West African seahorse, which had never been studied or photographed before in the wild. This experience in West Africa helped her to secure an exciting short-term role with an organisation leading the campaign against illegal fishing before she joined FFI in early 2013. Kate has worked for FFI as both an independent consultant and a Marine Project Officer in Cambridge.

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