- Scientists in Indonesia may have discovered nine new reef fish species in the waters off West Papua province.
- The discovery highlights the importance of protecting the region’s marine ecosystem for its vast and rich biodiversity.
- However, the researchers also found indications of blast fishing in the protected areas, and have called for sustainable management of the ecosystem.
Scientists in Indonesia may have found nine stunning new reef fish species in the protected waters off the country’s largely untouched province of West Papua.
They collected samples of the species from 12 sites at two marine conservation zones, Berau Bay and Nusalasi Van den Bosch Bay, in the coastal district of Fakfak during a two-week field survey in March. The researchers are currently working to prove the novelty of these species.
“The discovery of these species highlights the high potential of biodiversity in Fakfak’s waters where some of the species are endemic,” said Viktor Nikijuluw, senior marine program director at the NGO Conservation International Indonesia, who was involved in the research.
The potentially new species include a pipefish from the genus Choeroichthys; two damselfish from the genuses Pomacentrus and Chrysiptera; three gobies from the genuses Amblyeleotris, Eviota and Myersina; a wrasse from the genus Halichoeres; a sand-diver from the genus Trichonotus; and a blenny from the genus Ecsenius.
Viktor said maintaining the waters where these species were found as marine conservation areas would support the protection of the local biodiversity. He also called for effective management of the area to support sustainable fishing and tourism.
The survey was part of a study into the vast and pristine waters of West Papua. In Fakfak, the district government has allocated 3,500 square kilometers (1,350 square miles) of the region’s waters for marine conservation.
The researchers reported that the two locations studied were home to 640 reef fish species. Nearly half the extent of the two zones was covered in corals.
However, the researchers also found indications of blast fishing in the protected areas, which had destroyed some of the coral.
The report’s findings were submitted to the Fakfak government at the end of April.
“Understanding the conservation values [of these protected areas] now will be a valuable knowledge to help change our behavior with regard to the protection, conservation and sensible exploitation of our environment,” Viktor said.
This story was first published on May 14, 2018, by Mongabay-Indonesia.
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