The Memorandum of Understanding on the Conservation and Management of Marine Turtles and their Habitats of the Indian Ocean and South-East Asia puts in place a framework through which States, territories, inter-  and non-governmental stakeholders of the Indian Ocean and South-East Asian region, as well as other concerned States, can work together to conserve marine turtle populations  and their habitats for which they share responsibility. This objective can be achieved most effectively through the collective implementation of the IOSEA Conservation and Management Plan (CMP).

The Memorandum of Understanding applies to the waters and coastal States of the Indian Ocean and South-East Asia and adjacent seas, extending eastwards to the Torres Strait. For implementation purposes, the area is divided into four sub-regions: South-East Asia and Australia, Northern Indian Ocean, Northwestern Indian Ocean, and Western Indian Ocean. The species of marine turtles covered by the MoU are the Loggerhead Caretta caretta, Olive Ridley Lepidochelys olivacea, Green Chelonia mydas, Hawksbill Eretmochelys imbricata, Leatherback Dermochelys coriacea, and Flatback Natator depressus.

In the context of sustainable development, the conservation and management of marine turtles globally and within the Indian Ocean - South-East Asian region presents a formidable challenge. Many communities still utilise marine turtles for their meat and eggs, as a source of protein, and their shell for artisanal crafts. At the same time, marine turtles have both intrinsic and ecological values as important components of marine ecosystems. Threatened or endangered in many parts of the world, they are considered as flagship species on which to base interventions aimed at protecting habitats of importance to a myriad of other marine species.

Major threats to marine turtles include unsustainable exploitation, destruction of nesting and feeding habitats, and incidental mortality in fishing operations. The IOSEA MoU's Conservation and Management Plan -- containing 24 programmes and 105 specific activities -- focuses on reducing threats, conserving critical habitat, exchanging scientific data, increasing public awareness and participation, promoting regional cooperation, and seeking resources for implementation.

Various international agreements and national regulations strive to conserve and protect marine turtles from excessive exploitation. Ultimately, however, the success of these initiatives depends on effective implementation of measures by a wide range of actors -- governmental (at all levels), non-governmental (NGOs, civil society) and intergovernmental. Not surprisingly, in the face of other pressing development priorities, many countries lack the capacity and resources to undertake conservation measures for these species -- notwithstanding their socio-economic value and intrinsic worth. This makes it all the more important to offer support, assistance and encouragement to the custodians of these natural resources. The Indian Ocean -- South-East Asian Marine Turtle Memorandum of Understanding is playing its part by developing a well-coordinated network of interested stakeholders, delivering a comprehensive programme of necessary interventions, and providing an inclusive forum for regular review of implementation progress.


The Memorandum of Understanding is a specialized intergovernmental agreement concluded under the auspices of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals. With its Secretariat based in Bonn, Germany, CMS leads international efforts to conserve marine, terrestrial, and avian migratory species throughout their range. The Convention and most of its subsidiary Agreements are administered by the United Nations Environment Programme, headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya.

The Memorandum of Understanding and associated Conservation and Management Plan were developed over a series of intergovernmental negotiation sessions held in Perth, Australia (October 1999), Kuantan, Malaysia (July 2000), and Manila, Philippines (June 2001). The MoU came into effect on 1 September 2001, and the Signatory States held their first meeting in Bangkok in January 2003. A small regional secretariat was established in April 2003, supported through voluntary funding, to coordinate activities under the MoU. The IOSEA Marine Turtle MoU Secretariat was originally co-located with the UNEP Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific (UNEP/ROAP), in Bangkok, Thailand. Since January 2017, coordination takes place from the headquarters of CMS in Bonn, Germany.