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Ban on destructive fishing practice helps species recovery in Indonesian park

  • In 2011, a destructive fishing practice known as muroami was banned in Karimunjawa National Park off Indonesia’s Java Island.
  • In 2012-2013, the overall biomass of herbivorous fish species in the park had more than doubled from the 2006-2009 period, researchers have found.
  • They attribute this recovery to the muroami ban and have called for it to be implemented in other marine parks across Indonesia.

JAKARTA — Fish stocks in a marine national park in Indonesia increased significantly in the years after a ban on the use of coral-destroying nets was imposed, a recent study has found.

The overall biomass of herbivorous fish species in Karimunjawa National Park more than doubled in 2012-2013 from the 2006-2009 period, signaling a recovery in fish stock, the researchers write in their study published in July in the journal Ecological Applications.

They attribute the increase in biomass, which is key in conserving reef fish biodiversity, to a complete ban in 2011 on muroami fishing. This particular practice, common across Southeast Asia, uses large, non-discriminatory nets in combination with pounding devices to smash into coral reefs to flush out fish. Local fishermen also use compressor-and-hose diving equipment, putting their own lives at risk.

Muroami fishermen haul in their catch. Image courtesy of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).
A muroami fisherman inspects a net as it’s pulled up. Image courtesy of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).

The paper notes that the imposition of the muroami ban met with minimal resistance from local fishermen as they already understood that the practice was unprofitable and endangered their lives.

In addition to biomass doubling rapidly following the ban, the variety of fish species recorded, or taxonomic richness, also increased by 30 percent, the authors write. Co-author Shinta Pardede, a researcher with the Wildlife Conservation Society’s (WCS) Indonesia marine program, called Karimunjawa “the last frontier of coral reefs ecosystem in the Java Sea.”

“The reefs in the Karimunjawa chain provide high marine biodiversity and reef fish fisheries that mainly support both local and national fisheries resources,” she added.

Declared in a marine reserve in 2001, the park today spans 1,100 square kilometers (425 square miles) and encompasses 22 islands that are part of the Karimunjawa Archipelago. A patchwork of zoning policies allows artisanal fishing in certain areas, as well as tourism and research activities.

The island chain is one of seven marine national parks in Indonesia, and is renowned for its coral reefs. Nearly 500 species of reef fish thrive in the waters around Karimunjawa, and the park is a popular tourist attraction for divers and snorkelers.

A muroami fisherman in Karimunjawa marine national park. Image courtesy of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).
Muroami fishing is destructive to coral reefs. Image courtesy of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).
A muroami fishing net covers a coral reef. Image courtesy of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).

The impact of the muroami ban in Karimunjawa bolsters the case for having similar policies in other marine parks across Indonesia, particularly in areas where there’s poor compliance with existing regulations, the researchers say.

“It underlines the importance of these regulations for breaking cycles of resources depletion, habitat destruction, and low compliance to zoning, thus alleviating threats to food security and ecosystem integrity,” the researchers write.

Shinta said the lessons learned from Karimunjawa’s fisheries management had been successfully replicated at other sites nationwide, including in the provinces of West Nusa Tenggara, North Maluku, North Sulawesi, and Aceh.

“Karimunjawa fish catch data have been used in many scientific papers that enhance comprehension on practical fisheries management yet support marine conservation program in Indonesia and worldwide,” she said.

Muroami fishing boats. Image courtesy of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).


Bejarano, S., Pardede, S., Campbell, S. J., Hoey, A. S., & Ferse, S. C. (2019). Herbivorous fish rise as a destructive fishing practice falls in an Indonesian marine national park. Ecological Applications0(0). doi:10.1002/eap.1981

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