Asia Undercovered Special Issue: Oceans

June 8 is World Oceans Day, designated in 2009 by the United Nations to celebrate the role of the oceans in our everyday life and inspire action to protect oceans and promote the sustainable use of marine resources.

With numerous densely populated island and coastal nations, oceans plays a key role in livelihood, culture and politics in Asia. The region is part of the global tide calling for a move away from plastic, rising agitations against environmental and human exploitation of water, and many countries are taking action to tackle pollution,

In this special issue, written by Daniela Muenzel, a freelance writer and communications specialist, we share the stories of how Asia is protecting its Oceans – and some of the issues that still need addressing.

Undercovered Ocean Stories

In Papua New Guinea more than 5,000 villagers and a provincial government have built a legal challenge against the world’s most productive battery nickel plant. If successful, it will be a landmark case in protecting the ocean from mining pollution (Ian Morse, Mongabay).

Following reports in early May, a Chinese tuna company is under scrutiny as illegal shark-finning alongside human rights abuses of Indonesian migrant boat crews were revealed.

Efforts to reduce plastic waste has seen advancement over the last year in some Asian countries. But in Thailand plastic waste is now soaring again as a result of the pandemic and lockdown. Patpicha Tanakasempipat in Reuters on the pandemic’s impact on ocean pollution.

In-Depth Coverage

Listen to this four-part podcast by Sustainable Asia, made in collaboration with China Dialogue to learn about overfishing, aquaculture and artificial reefs with Marcy Trent Long and Li-Ting Lin.

Tim Hill’s commentary in Channel News Asia looks at the massive ocean plastic pile in Southeast Asia – and why action on recycling or reducing aren’t necessarily achieving impact in the region.

Solutions Stories on protecting Asia’s Oceans

This piece in Channel News Asia features an exclusive interview talking about the “window of opportunity” created by the pandemic shutdown, which could enable the region’s fragile oceans to recover, but only if decisive and coordinated action is taken (Jack Board).

Nintendo’s popular Animal Crossing lacks realism in terms of sustainability and environmental issues, so an Indonesian company created an alternative. Yu Kang writes about Coral Island, a game set in Southeast Asia which reminds players that natural resources are finite and teaches them about protecting ecosystems (South China Morning Post).

Marine plastic waste is ending up in the oceans across the continent, from major rivers. Among pioneers tackling ocean trash is Xiamen in China, using cameras to help recover marine plastic and identify its sources, writes Zhang Chun in China Dialogue Ocean.

Over 73 million sharks are killed each year as their fins continue to be trafficked as luxury food items. This could help stem the flow — a team of international researchers has developed a way to use DNA analysis to trace shark fins and identify species their origin (Elizabeth Claire Alberts, Mongabay)

Another milestone – Lakshwadeep, India has unveiled the world’s first sea cucumber conservation reserve – putting a halt to devastating environmental impacts of illegal trade of an organism that performs similar functions to earthworms (K.A. Shaji, Mongabay).


Asia Undercovered: Journalist Nithin Coca’s weekly roundup of the news, events, trends and people changing Asia, but not getting enough attention in the US media.