Phuket – 23 November, 2017: The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental of Thailand hosts “The ASEAN Conference on the ASEAN Conference on Reducing Marine Debris in ASEAN Region”, from 22 – 23 November, at the JW Marriot Phuket Resort & Spa, Phuket province, Thailand. On this occasion, H.E. General Surasak Karnjanarat, Minister of The Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment of Thailand presided over the ASEAN Conference on reducing Marine Debris in ASEAN region. The welcome addressed by guest of honored Mr. Sanit Sriwihok, Vice Governor of Phuket; Dr. Wijarn Simachaya, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Thailand; H.E. Mr. Vongthep Arthakaivalvatee, Deputy Secretary-General of ASEAN for ASCC, ASEAN Secretariat.

Three hundred marine experts from 10 ASEAN member countries and representatives from ASEAN countries’ environmental ministries, an official representative from China, academic experts in marine studies and international conservation groups have participated the 2-day conference which conference and exhibition on first day and continue to the workshop, site visit and research group discussion on the second day.

The conference aims to gather inputs from a broad range of stakeholders and identify how marine debris issues in ASEAN could be addressed through global partnership and multipartner and cross-sectoral cooperation mechanism and raise the awareness of ASEAN community on marine debris issue through side events. This conference is a great opportunity to create a platform to fight marine pollution together in the ASEAN region since six ASEAN countries rank among those guilty of excessive littering of the sea. The participants will share their ideas and discuss plans to solve this problem.

The background: Marine debris has been recognized as one of the key environmental issues at the global level and within ASEAN region. Measures and cooperation to reduce marine debris/litter shall be initiated to prevent lives under water from being harmed, which is in line with the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14: Life Below Water, on conserving and sustainably using the oceans, seas, and marine resources; and with the ASEAN vision 2025 particularly on the management of biodiversity and natural resources for sustainable development.

Three-quarters of all marine debris is made up of various forms of plastic (Barnes et al. 2009). A recent study estimates that between 4.8 and 12.7 million tons of plastics are dumped into the ocean in 2010 (Jambeck et al., 2015). Inadequate waste management on land has caused 80% of marine debris originated from land.

Marine debris is transported by oceans currents across borders. As such, it is a transboundary concern, requiring collaborative action and regional cooperation (UNEP, 2016). Approximately 70% of ASEAN human population lives in coastal areas and intensive farming and aquaculture, rapid urbanization and industrialization, greater shipping traffic and fishing effort, as well as widespread deforestation and nearshore development, are contributing towards the pollution problem. Four out of the top six most marine polluting countries are in ASEAN (Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand). ‘Hot Spots’ of floating plastic have been observed in coastal waters adjacent to countries with high coastal populations and inadequate waste management in South-East Asia (Peter Ryan 2013).