The Cambodian Seagrass Conservation Project

MCC’s Cambodian Seagrass Conservation Project is working to conserve, protect and expand seagrass meadows in Cambodia’s coastal waters. While also helping the local communities that rely on seagrass-related resources.

If you want to join an active conservation and research project, where habitat and marine life protection are our bosses, join our family here!

The Cambodia Seagrass Conservation Project (CSCP) is a research and conservation project evaluating extent of seagrass meadows in Cambodia as well as assessing the degree of natural ecosystem recovery (rewilding) already evidenced by the CSCP to be occuring in MCC anti-trawling protected areas (click here to find out more about the anti trawling structures – CANTS)

Cambodia was reported to once have been the vastest and most diverse seagrass meadows in the world

Today it is under threat!

Seagrass, the bioengineer

Seagrass is responsible for at least twice as much carbon capture than the whole of terrestrial forests and for 20% of the worlds fisheries!

Seagrass meadows are one of the most productive ecosystems in the world, supporting many social processes and ecological systems (Costanza et. al., 1997; Cullen-Unsworth et. al., 2014).

The ecosystemic services provided by seagrass make it the third most valuable ecosystem in the wolrd (19,000 US$/ha/yr)! Ony followed by wetlands and esturaries (which include seagrass as well). Amongst their ecosystemic services are:

  • Nursery and feeding grounds for multiple trophically and commercially valuable species;
  • Habitat, offering shelter for fish and migratory species;
  • Carbon capture, two times more than any terrestrial forest and at a rate about 10x faster;
  • Oxygenation of the water through photosynthesis;
  • Nutrient cycling through sedimentation and absorption;
  • Coastal erosion protection, by reducing wave action while trapping sediment;
  • Synergic positive feedback loop enhancing health of neighboring ecosystems.

Seagrass is one of the best allies we have in terms of naturally mitigating climate change.

Oliver Shipley, Beneth the Waves

As a result, it can help regulate water turbidity, coastal erosion, combat climate change, support fishing communities, enhance ocean health and impact sealife from the first phytoplancton and protozoans to the highest in the food chain (e.g. whale shark).

On the other hand, Kep’s coastal communities rely on seagrass meadows for food security, household income and livelihood options.

Small-scale fishermen harvest seafood from the meadows. Even tourism, such as restaurants, hotels, Kep Crab market and recreational activities, makes use of these ecosystem resources as an attraction.

Seagrass in Kep and Kampot is known to be inhabited by dugongs, whale sharks, seahorses, blue crabs, turtles and countless fish and fish larvae species!

What’s the problem?

In Cambodia, the largest seagrass meadows are found in Kampot Province, Kep province and the Kep archipelago.

However, the meadows are declining and largely overlooked in marine management strategies.

Human activities pose the biggest threat to seagrass meadows. This includes coastal industrial development, nutrient enrichment and destructive fishing practices (Leng et al., 2014; Grech et al., 2012). These activities change the sedimentation rate, water turbidity, ecosystem health and biodiversity rates, resulting in shrinking and fragmented meadows.

In the Kep archipelago, bottom-trawling is currently our greatest threat.


MCC’s CSCP comes into the picture to evaluate this massive habitat destruction and propose further key areas in the MFMA to protect with our anti-trawling CANTS while also reporting on the outcomes of such protection already in place in Kep and Kampot.

Achieved by CSCP:

  • Multiple full comprehensive reports on seagrass meadows;
  • Publications, research output (click here)
  • Estimate seagrass to cover at least more than 1000ha of seagrass in Kep archipelago;
  • Described presence of 10 species of seagrass for the first time in Cambodia;
  • Clearly defined seagrass meadows profile differences between islands of the archipelago;
  • Education of multiple students and volunteers on seagrass and surveying methodology as well as scientific writting;
  • Evidenced natural recovering meadows of seagrass (rewilding) arising from CANTS protection alone (at rates as high as 50%!);

Seagrass research

MCC is working to implement seagrass-specific management strategies and conservation actions to preserve this critical habitat.

In our project, we conduct underwater surveys to map and monitor the meadows. We keep track of the meadow size, species distribution and abundance regularly.

We also perform carbon sequestration surveys and shoot underwater videos for further analysis.

Social surveys are a part of our regular routine as well. They give us valuable information on the social aspects of the meadows.

If you are interested in supporting our Seagrass Conservation Project, please feel free to contact us.

Volunteering with CSCP

The CSCP needs year round volunteers to further the research, teach students or highly motivated individuals about conservation and marine research. At MCC you will live on an island and be an active member of our team expected to conduct seagrass and biodiversity surveys, while actively participating in any required team activities/research.

What you will be getting:
  • Experienced leadership in diving and research will surely impact the experience you gain at MCC
  • Direct contact with research conducted by MCC and with all methodologies
  • Diving in an Indo-Pacific Tropical waters with amazing coral and seagrass habitats
  • Underwater photography training and experience
  • Seagrass and overall marine focused education and training
  • Possibility of furthering your dive training by taking one of our available dive courses
  • Support for your future endeavours! Including signed letter of recomendation and certificate of presence and work/research conducted by you in your time with us!
Volunteer requirements:
  • Minimum 2 months
  • Highly motivated about conservation (our focus is always the ocean!)
  • Advanced Open Water SSI/PADI
  • Friendly, easy going individual, willing to work and live on challenging conditions
  • Theoretical knowledge (at least) on surveying and marine life (BSc in marine biology/ biology or related sciences is ideal)
  • Previous experienced in conservation, living in community with diverse cultures, and in volunteering (desired)