Millennium Ecosystem Assessment
Strengthening Capacity to Manage Ecosystems Sustainably for Human Well-Being

Arafura and Timor Seas Sub Global Assessment


The Arafura and Timor Seas are contiguous, semi-enclosed seas bordered by Indonesia and Timor-Leste to the north, Papau New Guinea to the west and Australia to the south. The Pacific flows into the Arafura & Timor seas through the Torres Strait.

Lead institution

Arafura and Timor Seas Forum (ATSEF) is a non-binding Forum for collaboration between Indonesia, Timor Leste, Papua New Guinea and Australia for the sustainable use of the living resources of the Arafura and Timor Seas.

Contact information:

  • Merrilyn Wasson
    Regional Coordinator – ATSEF
    Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies
    Australian National University
    Canberra, ACT 0200
    Phone: 61-2-6125 3037
    Fax: 61-2-6125 4896

Focal issues

The Sub-global assessment focuses on four institutional, biophysical and system dynamics priorities:

  • Institutional: Impact of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing in the Arafura and Timor Seas.
  • Biophysical: Assessment of fish stocks, marine habitats and coastal and marine biodiversity.
  • System dynamics of the seas
  • Institutional Assessment of sustainable and/or alternative livelihoods for coastal and indigenous communities.

Ecosystem services being assessed

Fish stocks, marine habitats, coastal and marine biodiversity, wetlands and carbon sequestration.

Key features of assessment area

These semi-enclosed seas are the global maximum for marine biodiversity. The seas have a carbon sequestration capacity that markedly exceeds other marine regions, despite containing the richest known hydrocarbon deposits. They are among the few seas where stocks depletion has been minimal, though that status is deteriorating rapidly. The near coast of much of the region consists of wetlands/floodplains that are critical to migratory bird species. Despite this abundance, fifty percent of the population of the coastal communities and the littoral states live below the absolute poverty line.

Timeframe, budget

  • CD of preliminary assessment due Dec 22, 2003.
  • Sub Global Assessment of the Arafura and Timor Seas due June 22, 2004