- Written by Amy Jones
- Category: Marine Conservation Cambodia Volunteering
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The Seagrass Conservation Project at MCC is working to conserve the existing seagrass meadows in Cambodia's coastal waters, and provide protection for them to extend and expand, thereby supporting local fishers and coastal communities which rely on seagrass resources.
What is seagrass and why is it important in Cambodia?
As one of the most productive ecosystems in the world, seagrass meadows support an array of social processes and ecological systems (Costanza et al., 1997; Cullen-Unsworth et al., 2014). Distributed across the world, these specialised marine plants have adapted to nearshore environments of most of the world’s continents (Short et al., 2001). Seagrasses are flowering plants (angiosperms) which predominantly inhabit shallow salty, marine waters, and some species are tolerant to fresh-water, estuarine, marine, or hypersaline conditions. Seagrass is not seaweed. Composed of green leaves, shoots and roots, like other terrestrial flowering plants, the complex structure of seagrasses enables them to play key ecological roles in marine seascapes.
In Cambodia, the largest extent of seagrass is found in Kampot Province, Kep province and the Kep archipelago, and is thought to once be part of the largest seagrass meadow in South East Asia (Supkong and Bourne, 2014; Vibol et al., 2010; UNEP, 2008). Seagrass plants grow in dense meadows which provide vital connective habitat between mangroves and coral reefs, allowing fish populations and migratory species to move between marine ecosystems. The structural complexity that seagrasses give to the seafloor provides shelter and nursery grounds for invertebrates and fish species, including commercially valuable species. Seagrass leaves are a primary food source for grazing species such as dugongs and green turtles. In addition, seagrass leaves photosynthesize which oxygenates the water, increasing nutrient cycling and carbon capture. The robust rhizomes of many seagrass species are able to lock carbon within the plant and surrounding sediment, helping to mitigate climate change by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Moreover, seagrass leaves attenuate wave action and rhizomes help trap sediment and particles in the water column, which reduces water turbidity and coastal erosion.
Seagrass meadows provide a wide range of ecosystem services at local and international scales, from food provisioning to mitigating against climate change. Kep’s coastal communities rely on seagrass meadows for food security, household income and livelihood options, in the form of tourism and marine fisheries. Small-scale fishers harvest fish and invertebrates which inhabit the subtidal seagrass meadows. Livelihoods in tourism, such as restaurants, hotels, Kep Crab market and in water-activities depend on seagrass ecosystems and resources to encourage tourists to visit coastal zones.
If they’re so great, what’s the problem?
It has been estimated that seagrass meadows are declining globally at a rate of 7% each year (Waycott et al., 2009). Despite the importance of seagrass meadows and the ecosystem services which they provide is becoming increasingly acknowledged, seagrasses receive little attention, and are largely overlooked in marine management strategies (Unsworth et al., 2018).
In Cambodia, seagrass management is currently ineffectual and meadows are threatened by a variety of anthropogenic pressures, including coastal industrial development, and reclamation, dredging, nutrient enrichment from agricultural run off and destructive fishing practices (Leng et al., 2014; Grech et al., 2012. In the Kep archipelago, bottom-trawling activities pose the greatest threat to seagrass meadows. As a result of direct damage from removal of seagrass biomass, and indirect damage, such as increased sedimentation and water turbidity, causing reduced photosynthetic potential of the plants, Cambodia’s seagrass meadows are reducing in extent and becoming increasingly fragmented. Declines in seagrass meadow extent and diversity leaves not only reduces the resilience of seagrasses themselves but the resilience of small-scale fishers and coastal communities which depend upon them. The seagrass conservation project at MCC is working to implement seagrass specific management strategies and conservation actions to preserve this critical habitat.
Our research methods
-Underwater-surveys to map and monitor seagrass meadow extent, species distribution and abundance.
-Carbon sequestration surveys
-Under-water video surveys and analysis
How can you help?
Become an intern with the seagrass team! Learn underwater survey techniques, seagrass identification skills, data entry and mapping skills. Join us to contribute to conservation and resource provisioning at an ecosystem scale, or get in touch with the finer details of plant ecology.
Costanza, R., d'Arge, R., De Groot, R., Farber, S., Grasso, M., Hannon, B., Limburg, K., Naeem, S., O'neill, R.V., Paruelo, J. and Raskin, R. G. (1997). The value of the world's ecosystem services and natural capital. nature, 387(6630), 253-260.
Cullen-Unsworth, L.C., Nordlund, L.M., Paddock, J., Baker, S., McKenzie, L.J. and Unsworth, R.K.F.(2014). Seagrass meadows globally as a coupled social–ecological system: Implications for human wellbeing. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 83(2), 387-397.
Grech, A., K. Chartrand-Miller, P. Erftemeijer, M., Fonseca, L. McKenzie, M., Rasheed, H. and Coles, R. (2012) A comparison of threats, vulnerabilities and management approaches in global seagrass bioregions. Environmental Research Letters. 7: e024006
Leng, P., Benbow, S. L. P. and Mulligan, B. (2014) Seagrass diversity and distribution in the Koh Rong Archipelago, Cambodia. Cambodian Journal of Natural History. 2014(1), pp.37–46.
Short, F. T., Coles, R. G. and Pergent-Martini, C. (2001). Global seagrass distribution. Global seagrass research methods, 5, 30.
Supkong, P. and Bourne, L. (2014). A survey of seagrass beds in Kampot, Cambodia. Thailand: IUCN. 91pp.
- Category: Marine Conservation Cambodia Volunteering
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In September 2017, MCC introduced The Cambodian Marine Mammal Conservation Project, in collaboration with the Royal Government of Cambodia’s Fisheries Administration. The project's primary aim is to collect data on abundance, distribution and residency to delineate and protect critical habitats for the endangered Irrawaddy dolphin in Cambodia's Kep Archipelago.
|Total Land Surveys||298|
|Total Boat Surveys||162|
|Total Number of Individuals Identified||32|
|Total Number of Species Identified||2|
● observational land surveys using a Theodolite and Pythagoras software,
● observational boat surveys
● photo-identification techniques using Discovery software,
● acoustic monitoring using a real-time hydrophone and a passive acoustic monitoring device- C-POD and CPOD.exe software,
● social science techniques,
● data entry, processing and analysis,
● education and outreach,
● responding to marine mammal strandings,
● sharing findings with government groups, the scientific community and local people through producing peer- reviewed scientific articles, technical reports, meetings, conferences, workshops and social media
Do you want to be an intern?
Basic internship training schedule
Session 1: Introduction to MCC and The Cambodian Marine Mammal Conservation Project.
Session 2: Research method training on observational land and boat surveying techniques.
Session 3: Marine mammal identification and behaviour training.
Session 4: Marine vessel identification training.
Session 5: Data sheet and data entry training.
Session 6: Drone footage analysis training.
Session 7: Research techniques theory test, followed by feedback and debrief.
Session 8: Theodolite and Pythagoras introduction and training.
You will also become involved in other project related activities, depending on your interest, skill set and length of stay.
We are looking for dedicated, motivated and hard-working interns, able to commit for a minimum internship period of one month. We are looking for those who will commit to early mornings and late nights, with a keen interest in marine mammals and their conservation. Ideally, we are looking for university students or recent graduates.
If you are interested in donating to our marine mammal conservation efforts, please visit The Cambodian Marine Mammal Conservation Project Donation Page
Beasley, I. and Davidson, P. (2007). Conservation status of marine mammals in Cambodian waters, including seven new cetacean records of occurrence. Aquatic Mammals, 33(3), pp 368-379.
Hines, E., Adulyanukosol, K., Somany, P., Ath, L., Cox, N., Boonyanate, P. and Hoa, N. (2008). Conservation needs of the dugong Dugong dugon in Cambodia and Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam. Oryx, 42(01).
IUCN (2017). Orcaella brevirostris (Irrawaddy Dolphin). [online] Available at: http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/15419/0 [Accessed 18 Dec. 2017].
Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries; Fisheries Administration, Kingdom of Cambodia (2007). Law on Fisheries.
Tubbs, S.E., Akkaya, A., Cote, G., Jones, A.L. and Notman, G.M. (2019). Sighting and stranding reports of Irrawaddy dolphins (Orcaella brevirostris) and Dugong (Dugong dugon) in Kep and Kampot, Cambodia. Aquatic Mammals, 45.5, pp.563-568.
Tubbs, S.E., Keen, E., Jones, A.L. and Thap, R. (2020). On the distribution, behaviour and seasonal variation of Irrawaddy dolphins (Orcaella brevirostris) in the Kep Archipelago, Cambodia. The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology, 68, pp.137-149.
- Category: Marine Conservation Cambodia Volunteering
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Cambodia's Leading Marine Conservation and Research Organisation
Protecting Cambodia's Oceans since 2008
Whilst still being a grassroots organisation we are rapidly expanding our research programs to include aquarium research alongside field research and we need volunteers and interns with experience in Marine biology, Marine ecology and Marine conservation to help us keep up the momentum we have built over the past 6 years.
Our university internship programs are a chance to put into practice what you have learnt already while getting valuable research experience in the field and your work with us actually gets used to help highlight the habitats and marine species in need of protection.
Our current university interns have been integrating into Khmer culture and really putting their knowledge into practice working together closely with our partner organizations and The Royal Government of Cambodia.
Even if you do not have research expertise in these areas, but you have self motivation and a passion to volunteer and make a difference then you can get involved in many aspects of the volunteer work we are undertaking here in Cambodia.
For those with little or no experience we provide basic training in areas of Marine and terrestrial research, so that you can still contribute to the goals of the project.
As the longest running and most experienced marine research program in Cambodia MCC has proven itself many times to be Cambodia's leading Marine Conservation and Research Organisation, you can make a difference across all of Cambodia's coastal provinces. Our field research covers over 20 of Cambodia's Islands and three provinces so your not limited in your choices and you can experience the real Cambodia. Our captive breeding and aquarium research together with our field research is essential to the conservation of Cambodia's marine habitats. We don't just talk about it, we do it !! and your contribution makes an immediate impact.
Please email us if you are looking to be involved in a project that really makes a difference.
Our project is only made possible by you.
- Category: Marine Conservation Cambodia Volunteering
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You have found us!! Thank you for your passion and interest in Marine Conservation and Marine Research in Cambodia.
Welcome to our Volunteer Marine Conservation Project and welcome to our website, we hope that whilst looking through our site you will begin to see our vision of marine conservation and marine research here in Cambodia and the dedication, passion and responsibility we have to conserve and protect the areas we have been entrusted with.
At Marine Conservation Cambodia we work continuously throughout the year on the conservation, research and restoration of Cambodia's marine resources with a special focus on the marine environments and marine issues in Kep Province. Our permenant dedicated conservation and research team is out on the water daily, monitoring, researching and protecting the health of the reefs, seagrass beds and other sensitive marine habitats all with the purpose of conserving the Ocean we have fallen in love with..
Once you join our team you will find we are not your average volunteer project, with or without volunteers our team and our project makes a continuous positive impact, we have a very passionate team that has given up their everyday lives to dedicate their time to protecting Cambodia's marine resources, we really are just a big family. At MCC we offer a volunteer marine conservation experience like no other organization can. Being that we are a small grass roots family run organisation it allows us more flexibility in what we can offer to our volunteers and interns. We are not an International NGO or large worldwide charity, but a small local registered NGO right here in Cambodia. Many of the large voluntourism organizations and NGO’s are bound by extremely tight rules and regulations, which hinder many activities that a volunteer or intern can participate in. Here at Marine Conservation Cambodia we are not bound by these tight restrictions allowing our volunteers a once in a lifetime opportunity and ultimately the freedom to be involved in all aspects of a real marine conservation and marine research project.
We can prepare you for active in-field marine research, our training schedules allow our volunteers the opportunity to learn standard and specific reef and Seagrass monitoring methodologies, including detailed knowledge of substrates (including Coral and Seagrass species), invertebrates and fish (including In depth Seahorse identification), and of course become involved in our ground breaking seahorse research or participate in our new Marine Mammal project. Once you have completed your initial training you will become fully immersed in our monthly research schedule and are able to participate in daily scientific marine survey dives collecting important data that helps us monitor not only the changes happening within our newly created MFMA (marine fisheries management area) and the small MPA's (marine protected areas) within it, but also gathering crucial data on Cambodia's seahorse and dolphin populations. We also organise regular meetings with local fishing communities to collect information regarding their thoughts and needs regarding the status of their fishing grounds. Our team specialises in Seahorse research as it was Seahorses, or rather the threats to them that initially started what is now MCC, our new project on marine mammals is quickly becoming as loved as our seahorse work and we hope it will be the basis of a full monitoring program that will benefit all of Cambodia's marine mammals.
As our conservation organization as progressed, we are also now very much involved in marine management/resource planning, with a lot of our time dedicated to the creation of Marine Fisheries Management areas, and the respective management of those areas. Our other main area of expertise is IUU (Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported Fishing) with our director sitting as co-chair on the Fisheries National Sub-commitee for IUU and MCC recently completing a country wide IUU hotspot report for the EU, our work on IUU is making a direct impact on tackling many problems that affect to Cambodia's coastal fisheries.
We are not some standardised conservation holiday, we use your time, energy and money to protect Cambodia's and specifically Kep's marine environment, once trained the data you collect and the reports you will be involved in preparing, are used by both national and provincial authorities to plan, manage and protect Cambodia's marine habitats and resources. Our last Conservation Zoning proposal which was completed in 2016 by our research team and our long staying volunteers has led to the creation of Cambodia's second Marine Fisheries Management area and created an extended conservation area around our base on Koh Seh Island, that report can be found here.
Want to do more for marine conservation then just collect data? So do we! And we do! You can also join us on our privately owned boats to actively patrol our MPA and actually stop illegal/destructive fishing! Yes that is correct. Marine Conservation Cambodia volunteers are allowed to join our observational patrol teams supporting us while we actively stop illegal boats within our protected area, confiscate illegal fishing equipment, and force the illegal and destructive fishers to dump their catches back into the ocean. You can also get involved in our artificial shellfish reef/anti trawling devices and underwater landscaping projects and for those that are interested begin to learn about the issues, difficulties and solutions to engaging in marine conservation in a newly developing country such as Cambodia.
Do you already have a specific conservation, marine science or related area that you are studying or looking to study? Are you looking for a hands on academic internship? At MCC we are passionate about education on marine/coastal conservation and research, we want you to not only contribute to our project, but to feel that you have also increased your own potential, increased your own abilities and developed your potential career whilst volunteering with us. Our conservation and research team is there to facilitate your learning experience and make sure you get exactly what you need from your stay with us wether its your passion to conserve the ocean or your need to fulfil university course requirements. Volunteers are also encouraged to bring their own ideas with them. From, ICM (integrated coastal management) to aquaculture projects to new scientific techniques MCC welcomes your idea!
You can read some of the feelings of our previous volunteers here
If you want to know more please look over our website and please feel free to email us with any questions.
For those interested in Academic Internships please find our Application Form Here.
Thanks again from the team at Marine Conservation Cambodia.