IOSEA Marine Turtles

  Visit the IOSEA Turtles MOU website

This page provides a general overview on the IOSEA Marine Turtles MOU. For detailed information, please visit the MOU website.

History and Objective of the Memorandum of Understanding

The Memorandum of Understanding on the Conservation and Management of Marine Turtles and their Habitats of the Indian Ocean and South-East Asia (IOSEA Marine Turtle MOU) and its associated Conservation and Management Plan (CMP) 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 was concluded under CMS auspices and became effective on 1 September 2001. After the Signatory States held their first meeting in Bangkok in January 2003, a secretariat was established in April 2003, supported through voluntary funding, to coordinate activities under the MOU. 

The ultimate aim of the IOSEA agreement is to maintain and recover marine turtle populations by promoting cooperation among Governments and other organizations that share this common objective. Recognizing that marine turtles have a myriad of socio-economic values, the agreement seeks to assure that any consumptive or non-consumptive use of turtles for the benefit of human beings is sustainable well into the future.

Marine Turtles of the Indian Ocean and South-East Asia: distribution and conservation status

Six species of marine turtles are covered by the Memorandum of Understanding (IUCN Red List Criteria shown in parentheses): the Loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta, Endangered A1abd), Olive ridley turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea, Vulnerable A2bd), Green turtle (Chelonia mydas, Endangered A2bd), Hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata, Critically Endangered A2bd), Leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea, Vulnerable A2bd) and Flatback turtle (Natator depressus, Data Deficient). All of them are found to migrate and nest within the IOSEA region.

For a more comprehensive overview of the species covered by the MOU, as well as their geographic distribution, please see

The MOU applies to the waters and coastal States of the Indian Ocean and South-East Asia and adjacent seas, extending eastwards to the Torres Strait. This agreement area is considered to cover 44 Range States. For implementation purposes, the area is divided into four sub-regions: South-East Asia (plus Australia, China, Japan, Republic of Korea and United States), Northern Indian Ocean, Northwestern Indian Ocean, and Western Indian Ocean.

Threats and challenges

Marine turtles have both intrinsic and ecological values that are important for marine ecosystems. They are considered as flagship species on which to base interventions aimed at protecting habitats of importance for a myriad of other marine species. Because they are highly migratory species, strong cooperation among States is crucial for their conservation and management.

As elsewhere, the threats to marine turtles in the IOSEA region are multifactorial. They include unsustainable exploitation for consumption and trade of meat and eggs, as well as of shell for ornamental purposes; destruction of nesting beaches and feeding habitats such as mangroves, seagrass beds and coral reefs; and incidental mortality in fishing operations (“by-catch”).  Less visible threats to marine turtles include: climate change, artificial light pollution associated with coastal development, marine pollution (especially plastic), abandoned fishing nets (“ghost nets”), inappropriate beach management strategies, and natural predation by feral animals.

IOSEA Conservation and Management Plan (CMP)

Through its Conservation and Management Plan, the IOSEA MOU puts in place a framework through which States of the Indian Ocean and South-East Asian region, as well as other concerned States, can work together to conserve and replenish depleted marine turtle populations for which they share responsibility. The CMP serves as a comprehensive blueprint of what needs to be done to conserve marine turtles of the Indian Ocean. Its six objectives, divided into 24 programmes and 105 specific activities, focus on reducing threats, conserving critical habitat, exchanging scientific data, increasing public awareness and participation, promoting regional cooperation, and seeking resources for implementation.

The IOSEA Secretariat has developed and maintained a state-of-the-art online system for countries to report on their progress in implementing the CMP.  A number of countries which have joined IOSEA have also used the Conservation and Management Plan as a template for their own national strategies and for reporting on their marine turtle conservation activities.

Activities under the Memorandum of Understanding

In the face of other pressing development priorities, many countries lack the capacity and resources to undertake conservation measures for marine turtles – notwithstanding their socio-economic value and intrinsic worth. This makes it even more important to offer support, assistance and encouragement to build capacity among a wide range of actors, i.e. governmental (at all levels), non-governmental organizations (NGOs, civil society) and local stakeholders who are the custodians of these natural resources.

The IOSEA MOU plays its part by developing a well-coordinated network of interested actors, delivering a comprehensive programme of necessary interventions, and providing an inclusive forum for regular review of implementation progress.

Over the years, the IOSEA Secretariat has developed many online tools – such as the Projects Database, Satellite Tracking Metadatabase, Bibliography Resource and the soon-to-come International Flipper Tag Recovery Database – which are at the disposal of anyone who may wish to delve further into the subject matter. The Secretariat regularly highlights significant activities of relevance to marine turtle conservation around the IOSEA region through News Headlines, Feature stories and Profiles of the Month posted on its website. The Year of the Turtle campaign, which the IOSEA Secretariat coordinated in 2006, was a great plus for galvanizing activities in many countries across the region.

In addition, the IOSEA MOU produces detailed assessments of the status of the species found in the region, which include considered recommendations of further conservation actions that need to be taken. These include a Leatherback Assessment, published in 2006 and updated in 2012, and Loggerhead Assessment released in early 2014. In 2012, in partnership with the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC), IOSEA co-funded the first-ever Ecological Risk Assessment for marine turtles in the Indian Ocean.

Current projects of the IOSEA MOU include the development a Network of Sites of Importance for Marine Turtles, extension of an ongoing Technical Support & Capacity-Building Programme, a review of studies and activities related to the socio-economic implications of marine turtle use and conservation, as well as an investigation on the illegal trade of marine turtles in the IOSEA region.

For more information on the IOSEA Marine Turtle Memorandum of Understanding, visit the OFFICIAL WEBSITE and subscribe to the monthly IOSEA e-News.


Possibly to be included in the sub-section ‘Projects’… or I would welcome any other suggestion on where to provide hyperlinks for the following IOSEA databases!


Titlesort descending Status Status date CMS Party number Region
Maldives MOU Signatory 2010 AM Asia
Mauritius MOU Signatory 2002 086 Africa
Mozambique MOU Signatory 2008 112 Africa
Myanmar MOU Signatory 2001 AM Asia
Oman MOU Signatory 2004 AM Asia
Pakistan MOU Signatory 2004 025 Asia
Papua New Guinea MOU Signatory 2010 AM Oceania
Philippines MOU Signatory 2001 043 Oceania
Qatar Range State Asia
Republic of Korea Range State Asia
Saudi Arabia MOU Signatory 2005 036 Asia
Seychelles MOU Signatory 2003 092 Africa
Singapore Range State Asia
Somalia Range State 020 Africa
South Africa MOU Signatory 2005 038 Africa
Sri Lanka MOU Signatory 2001 033 Asia
Sudan MOU Signatory 2014 AM Africa
Thailand MOU Signatory 2004 AM Asia
United Arab Emirates MOU Signatory 2007 123 Asia
United Kingdom MOU Signatory 2002 019 Europe


Instrument nameMemorandum of Understanding on the Conservation and Management of Marine Turtles and their Habitats of the Indian Ocean and South-East Asia
TypeArticle IV(4)
DepositaryCMS Secretariat
SignatureSigned by 33 States and the CMS Secretariat
In effectFirst day of the third month following signature by the second State; open for signature indefinitely, effective for all other signatory States on the first day of the first month following the date on which they sign
Website URL
OtherSigned also by the CMS Secretariat on 23.06.2001
PDF icon MOU Text and CMP - English110.32 KB
PDF icon MOU Text and CMP - French86.97 KB
PDF icon MOU Text and CMP - Arabic227.46 KB

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