The basic concept behind a Marine Protected Area (MPA) is to establish “safe zones” where the total amount of fishing is limited to what the local communities need – both for their nutritional requirements and any reasonable commercial activities – so that fish stocks are not depleted and can therefore breed successfully, while the general marine environment is sustained.
Having the local communities bought in is vital if an MPA is to succeed in their areas, otherwise rules and regulations instituted top-down will simply be flouted or ignored from the bottom-up, lessons that have been learned by conservationists the hard way in places like the Caribbean.
The integrated plan to establish the first Marine Protected Areas was co-developed in 2004 by an alliance formed between Conservation International (CI), The Nature Conservancy (TNC), WWF Indonesia and the local government of the Raja Ampat Regency.
The plan called for the establishment of 7 ecologically-connected MPA’s that would cover an area of nearly 900,000 hectares and approximately 45% of Raja Ampat’s coral reefs and mangroves.
The core concept behind the ecological connectivity was to ensure that key habitats and ecosystems, which are linked by the complex ocean currents of the Indonesian Throughflow, are protected against exploitation that could impact not only the Raja Ampat area but other parts of the Indonesian archipelago and possibly the Coral Triangle itself.
While not yet scientifically proven, there are clear signs that the reefs of Raja Ampat act as a major source of larvae to reef systems throughout the eastern half of the archipelago, which if confirmed means that the Four Kings are truly of global significance!
In May 2007, the network of seven MPA’s was formally declared by the government of the Raja Ampat regency and since then another 5 have been added across the Birds Head peninsular through the combined efforts of the CI, TNC and WWFI alliance engaging with other regional governments – a truly impressive achievement.
But as with all things, the devil is in the detail, and to ensure that the local communities are bought in to the MPA’s and stay in, the alliance has put in to effect a major consultation scheme and education program.
The consultation has revolved around working with the local government and citizens in a total of 124 remote villages across the peninsular to better understand their needs and aspirations so that can be aligned with a sustainable vision for the area and its MPA.
While the education program has been based on the MV Kalabia, a very colorful 34 meter boat that tours the islands and communities of Raja Ampat and the Bird’s Head to conduct highly-interactive marine conservation sessions.
The program is designed to dramatically increase the local understanding and appreciation of the regions biodiversity, the threats to it, and the need for local leadership in effectively managing it.
As in many locations throughout the Indo-Pacific the local leaders and village chiefs often have an intuitive knowledge of traditional conservation practice, usually based around the basic concept of not fouling your own nest…
So typically they respond in a very positive way and providing their overall needs are aligned with the vision for the area and its MPA the future looks positive!
Map of the Birds Head Peninsular MPA’s – Image courtesy of The Nature Conservancy
Next Page: Raja Ampat Logistics
Back To: Raja Ampat’s Biodiversity