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Indonesia: People Protect Livelihoods and Reefs in Wakatobi National Park

Provided by Joanne Wilson, The Nature Conservancy; Purwanto, The Nature Conservancy' Wahyu Rudianto, Wakatobi National Park Authority; Veda Santiadji, WWF-Indonesia; Saharuddin Usmi, KOMUNTO, Wakatobi National Park

<p>Photo credit: Robert Delfs</p>

Photo credit: Robert Delfs

Wakatobi National Park (WNP), located in the heart of the Coral Triangle, spans an area of 1.4 million hectares off the southeast tip of Sulawesi, Indonesia. WNP is home to some of the world’s most diverse coral reefs. In the Wakatobi District, more than 100,000 people depend on fishing for food and income. The Wakatobi District government and the Wakatobi National Park Authority jointly manage the WNP, while local fishermen also play an important role in fisheries management in several locations through community forums. Additionally, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and WWF-Indonesia have provided technical management support in WNP since 2003.

Commercially-valuable fish species, such as grouper and snapper, are highly vulnerable to overfishing in WNP due to the Live Reef Food Fish Trade, and because these species reproduce in fish spawning aggregations (FSAs)-- a phenomenon in which fish gather at predictable locations and times, as a means to reduce predation of eggs, find mates and maximize reproduction success.1 Unfortunately, this behavior also makes the fish easy prey for fishermen. In response, the TNC-WWF joint program, alongside local management agencies, conducted surveys to identify FSA locations and establish ecological baselines in WNP, which influenced the Wakatobi Park Authority’s decision to declare all FSAs in WNP as “no-take” zones in 2007.

The results of surveys between 2005 and 2010 have shown that fish counts in two of the park’s FSAs—where local fishermen have been directly involved in management—have stabilized. At FSA sites where local communities have not been involved in management, the number of fish has continued to decrease, likely due to continued fishing in these no-take zones. Clearly, local management, not simply designation, is the factor for success. As a result, TNC and WWF have facilitated regular training sessions to build the capacity of local fisher groups in community organizing, and to provide training on conservation, marine protected areas, and the importance of protecting the FSAs.

In June 2006, members of one community forum, called KOMUNTO (Komunitas Nelayan Tomiya), came to an agreement to halt fishing in locations they refer to as “fish banks” after hearing about the results of the FSA monitoring studies. Since its formation, KOMUNTO has been able to mobilize and organize previously isolated and scattered fishermen groups, thereby promoting community participation in park management decisions and the local enforcement and monitoring of protected areas. In 2010, KOMUNTO won the United Nations Development Programme’s prestigious Equator Prize for outstanding community efforts to reduce poverty through the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, and KOMUNTO’s “fish bank” model has started being adopted by other local fishing communities. KOMUNTO has also developed an organizational cooperative, providing savings and loans services and supporting trade activities as a means to alleviate poverty.2 Other communities have followed KOMUNTO’s lead by implementing their own patrols of the no-take zone and regulating fishing effort of cooperative members in surrounding areas.

These experiences have shown that involvement of local communities can lead to better conservation outcomes. While the designation of marine protected areas and no-take zones are both necessary to curb overfishing, they alone may not be sufficient to protect vulnerable FSAs in remote areas where the Live Reef Food Fish Trade still operates. The combined efforts of the Wakatobi Park Authority and local communities have resulted in more effective protection of fish stocks within the park.

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  1. R2 Reef Resilience. Fish Spawning Aggregations A Reef Resilience Toolkit Module (2010)

  2. Equator Initiative. Equator Prize 2010 Winners, (Accessed: November 16, 2010). 

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