West Papua communities celebrate coral conservation zone
Wednesday, December 12, 2012 - 02:20
Dec. 12 - One of the world's richest coral ecosystems has been designated a protected area in a deal struck by local communities and conservation groups. Situated north of the Molucca Islands in Indonesia, the Southeast Misool Marine Protected Area is intended to protect both the reef and the livelihoods of fishing communities who depend on it. Rob Muir reports.
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One of the world's richest coral ecosystems has been designated a protected area in a deal struck by local communities and conservation groups. Situated north of the Molucca Islands in Indonesia, the Southeast Misool Marine Protected Area is intended to protect both the reef and the livelihoods of fishing communites who depend on it. Rob Muir reports.
Yellu island is a tiny dot on the map between West Papua and the Molucca Islands in Indonesia. It's one of four islands in a group called Raja Ampat, or "Four Kings" that support communities whose livelihoods come almost exclusively from the sea.
But beneath the water's surface, exists another community, regarded as one of the richest reef ecosystems on Earth. More than 1400 species of fish and 75 percent of all known coral species live here.
Humans have coexisted with the reefs for centuries but in the past fifty years, the balance has shown signs of tipping. Locals say over-fishing and the targetting of vulnerable species have taken their toll on the reef and the life it supports.
But now a conservation deal has been struck to help restore the balance, and the locals are celebrating.
After a detailed four year survey led by the US-based Nature Conservancy, 366,000 hectares of reef have been designated a protected zone, divided into regions where fishing is restricted or banned entirely.
With the deal done, the conservancy's Matt Durnin says its now up to the islanders to maintain it.
SOUNDBITE: MATT DURNIN, THE NATURE CONSERVANCY'S REGIONAL SCIENCE DIRECTOR ASIA PACIFIC & NORTH ASIA, SAYING:
"We have played the role and helping them create in term of the zoning of the protected area, we have tried to support them in training and how to monitor the patrol and now I think it's their job to implement and make sure they are all is follow through. We will continue to support technically of course we still have people here working very closely with the locals."
And that work includes the monitoring of illegal fishing and enforcement of the rules. Community leaders like Razak Umkabu says the deal gives well-established practices legal standing.
SOUNDBITE: RAZAK UMKABU, LEADERS OF FISHERMEN AT MISOOL, SAYING:
"Our ancestors had implemented this "no take zone" rule in their day to day life. It was from a long time ago. Long before I was born. and to today we declared it, formalized
And it's a declaration they say is worth celebrating.
For the islanders, traditional rituals blessing the agreement underscore the importance of maintaining both the reef and their way of life.
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