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Asia Dive News : A major step forward for marine protection in Indonesia

Following a growing trend to protect sensitive marine ecosystems, Indonesia has announced plans to create a marine protected area (MPA) over 1.2 million hectares off the eastern coast of the Derawan Archipelago in the Sulawesi Sea.

The archipelago is an integral part of WWF's Sulu-Sulawesi Marine Ecoregion, which 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.

“We are pleased to see the local government recognize the need to protect and manage the region's marine resources of the region,” said Dr Lida Pet Soede, director of WWF-Indonesia's marine programme.

“Successful conservation of this region will benefit many stakeholders as well as the marine ecosystem.”

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 fishing operations.

WWF and The Nature Conservancy are currently working with the Berau District and local communities in developing a zoning plan that will include no-take zones, as well as traditional-use zones where only small-scale traditional fishing will be allowed. Other zones will be set up for tourism, fishing and other recreational activities.

“With the establishment of an MPA, regulations that protect the interest of local fishermen can now be enacted,” added Pet Soede. This includes regulating fishing gears and fees based on catches.”

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.

Source: WWF