The no-take zone was the brainchild of Andy Miners, a dive guide from Cornwall, committed conservationist and amateur marine biologist. Having been confronted by the carnage on Batbitim Island’s north beach, Miners went on a mission to
establish a resort and dive centre to support a no-take zone that would allow for the re-stocking of depleted fish populations in southern Raja Ampat. Having convinced Marit Maritson, Thorben Nieman and Mark Pearce of his idea, the four
raised capital from friends in the wider diving community.
The centre’s approach to sustainability relates to human resources, the institutionalisation of conservation practices and finances. Misool Eco Resort earns income from divers and its foundation, Baseftin, and manages conservation
activities in the no-take zone and the ranger patrols protect it. All are about 70 per cent locally staffed. In the time between identifying young trainees and turning them into experienced dive guides, the operation is filling the gap
with experienced guides from Manado.
Misool Eco Resort (www.misoolecoresort.com) and WildAid announced today the creation of a 468 sq mile (1220 sq km) Marine Conservation Area in Raja Ampat, Indonesia. This has nearly tripled Misool Eco Resort’s164 sq mile (425 sq km) No-Take Zone, established in 2005. The combined Marine Conservation Area (MCA) now includes an adjoining archipelago of islands called Daram.
The MCA prohibits the kill, capture, or removal of any wildlife. Prohibitions include shark finning, all types of fishing, hunting turtles, and collecting turtle eggs, as well as highly destructive practices such as reef bombing, cyanide fishing, and live reef fish trade.
Misool Eco Resort’s MCA is centered on an eco-region of global importance, linking diverse habitats such as mangroves, shallow reefs, deep sea beds, sea mounts, and coastal regions. The MCA lies just outside the traditional fishing grounds of the local villages. The villagers report increased catches in these fishing grounds as a direct result of protections in the adjacent MCA.
“In the context of my work with Conservation International in Raja Ampat, I have dived the spectacular reefs in the vicinity of Misool Eco Resort several times each year since 2003. During this time, the passionate efforts of Misool Eco Resort and its local Ranger Patrol to protect these world-class reefs have been highly successful in improving the fish biomass in the area and bringing an end to previously rampant destructive fishing practices,” stated Dr Mark Erdmann. “I’ve noticed a dramatic increase in the number of snappers, groupers, and Napoleon wrasse on these reefs since the implementation of their innovative community agreement for a no-fishing zone in the area. Perhaps most heartening of all, in the past year alone I’ve seen more sharks within the MCA boundaries than I had seen in the preceding 6 years’ combined.”
Raja Ampat enjoys the highest marine biodiversity level on the planet, with 1397 species of fish and over 600 species of coral recorded. It is widely believed that coral species in this area are more resistant to bleaching, making them of particular interest as water temperatures are set to rise. In the past, Raja Ampat has been the scene of destructive overfishing that has severely threatened sharks, turtles, dugongs, manta rays, as well as fish the local population depends upon for food.
Raja Ampat’s spectacular biodiversity and pristine landscapes have established the area as one of the most highly sought-after dive destinations in the world. The MCA secures the future of low impact underwater eco-tourism, which directly benefits Raja Ampat’s people while safeguarding its spectacular natural resources.
“We are extremely fortunate to have such visionary community leaders as our partners. Through our joint efforts we are safeguarding the fabulous biodiversity upon which we all depend,” said Andrew Miners of Misool Eco Resort.“By patrolling this MCA together, we can protect the area and pass on a thriving ecosystem to their children.”
The expansion of the Misool Eco Resort’s MCA is a direct result of the success of Misool Eco Resort’s original No-Take Zone. A locally-staffed Ranger Patrol enforces the perimeters and is funded by Misool Eco Resort, WildAid, The Coral Reef Alliance, and many generous private donors.
Today, Misool Eco Resort and Shark Savers, an international shark conservation organization, also announced that the Regent of Raja Ampat has declared a Shark Sanctuary for the entire 15,000 square miles of Raja Ampat. The Shark Sanctuary provides full protection from fishing for sharks, manta and mobula rays, dugongs, and turtles. The Misool Eco Resort’s MCA lies within the new Shark Sanctuary and will serve as a model for enforcement through community engagement.
“Misool Eco Resort is defining how effective ocean conservation gets done with their Marine Conservation Area,” said Michael Skoletsky, Executive Director of Shark Savers. “Enlist and integrate local communities into the outcome. Partner with NGOs for management, assessment, enforcement assistance, and funding. Engage government to establish legal authority and leadership as it has with the Raja Ampat Shark Sanctuary. Misool Eco Resort has set an example by using highly responsible underwater eco-tourism as the vehicle for making conservation practical.”
Misool Eco Resort was established in 2006 by a group of dedicated conservationists, divers, and adventurers. The resort is located on a private island and surrounded by Misool Eco Resort’s own No-Take Zone in Raja Ampat, Indonesia.
Misool Eco Resort firmly believes in the mutual benefit of sustainable tourism and community based conservation. Their Indonesian Registered charity is called Misool Baseftin that means ‘Misool – we own it together’ in the local dialect. The foundation maintains an all encompassing approach to conservation, combining environmental, social, and educational elements. One of Misool Baseftin’s main projects is operating the Ranger Patrol and protecting Misool Eco Resort’s No-Take Zone (NTZ). The resort also hires over 120 people from the surrounding community benefitting many families in the area.
The ten rangers patrol the entire 828 square kilometer NTZ in two patrol boats and through diligence have managed to greatly reduce environmental damage such as cyanide fishing, shark finning and the other threats to the delicate ecological balance of the area. In 2011 the Misool Manta Project was launched where a database was established using markings and other distinctive markings of the rays from the cleaning station. This helps monitor them and track breeding and interaction with other species in order to put forward a case for conservation in the area. Guests who are passionate about Mantas can join the ‘Manta Researcher for a Day’ programme to track and note down data.
The Raja Ampat Shark and Manta Sanctuary was launched in 2010 after a petition of 8500 signatures were collected and presented to the Raja Ampat Government. In collaboration with Shark Savers the government was persuaded to create a sanctuary for the entire 17,000 square miles of the archipelago, by proving the economic value of these species was worth more by preserving them and avoiding ecosystem collapse from the extinction of the top predators in the food chain. All the conservation programs are supported by increasing the ranger stations and slowly helping to restore the previous reef damage.
Within the community, apart from providing employment for many families, the property has also built a kindergarten in the Daram Islands within the NTZ. They also pay the wages of the schoolteachers for six villages and created a mobile library, the brainchild of Head Ranger Razak Tamher, and now two permanent libraries. Guests can donate easy to read English books when they visit.
Local actions are making a difference in Southeast Misool. Strong local claims to land and sea remain intact and many villages have revived their traditional management practice of ‘sasi’ (temporal fisheries closures) to manage key invertebrate and fish species or fisheries areas. Local communities have also identified at least ten no-take zones in the MPA covering a range of coral reef, mangrove and seagrass habitats, that they want to establish and actively protect. Through a partnership between communities, Misool Eco Resort and the local non-government organization (NGO)Misool Baseftin, two additional large no-take zones now protect 70,013 hectares of some of the region’s most vital resources. But more work still needs to be done