Following recent moves by the U.S. and Brazil to protect coral reefs and sensitive marine ecosystems, Indonesia has announced plans to create a marine-protected area covering more than 4.6 thousand square miles (1.2 million hectares) off the eastern coast of the Derawan Archipelago in the Sulawesi Sea.
The island chain contains some 450 species of coral and support one of the world’s largest varieties of reef fish, as well as commercial and community fisheries. In recent years, however, overfishing and destructive fishing methods, including the use of cyanide and dynamite, have destroyed large sections of coral and depleted fish populations.
Community members of more than 25 coastal villages initiated the call to protect their marine areas, following reports from local fishermen that fish catches were decreasing and revenues were being lost due to increased non-resident commercial fishing operations. . .
WWF and The Nature Conservancy are currently working with the communities to develop a zoning plan that will include no-take zones, as well as traditional-use areas where only small-scale traditional fishing will be allowed. Other parts will be set up for tourism, fishing and other recreational activities.
The two conservation organizations are also helping to reduce the threats caused by illegal and destructive fishing practices by enhancing local government and community natural resource management, improving law enforcement, and raising awareness about the importance of protecting the marine ecosystem for the benefit of local communities.
In recognition of the MPA declaration, WWF and The Nature Conservancy presented the heads of Indonesia’s Berau District with a “Leaders of a Living Planet” award.