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Four new MPAs in Maluku boost Indonesia’s bid to protect its seas

Mount Wurlali on Damer Island, Southwest Maluku, Indonesia

  • Indonesia’s Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries designated four new marine protected areas in the country’s east in January.
  • The new conservation areas are in the waters surrounding the islands of Tanimbar, Damer, Mdona Hiera, Lakor, Moa, Letti and the Romang in Maluku province.
  • The newly designated MPAs are home to threatened and protected species, including the green turtle, the scalloped hammerhead shark, and an abundance of coral reefs and other marine ecosystems.
  • The four new MPAs bring the Indonesian government two-thirds of the way toward its goal of ensuring “effective management” of 10% of national waters by 2030.

AMBON, Indonesia — The Indonesian Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries has designated four new marine protected areas (MPA) around a group of islands in the eastern province of Maluku.

The designation of these remote waters around the islands of Tanimbar, Damer, Mdona Hiera, Moa, Letti and Romang represents 0.4% of national waters, which is still an area larger than the U.S. state of Connecticut or almost the same size as the Mediterranean nation of Montenegro.

In terms of conservation goals, the Jan. 11 designation brings Indonesia 4% of the way toward its goal to “effectively manage” 10% of national waters by 2030.

In numbers, the goal is to designate 325,000 square kilometers (125,500 square miles) worth of MPAs, with the new Maluku additions totaling 12,559 km2 (4,849 mi2). At their last published estimate, the ministry website tallied Indonesia’s conserved waters at 241,000 km2 (93,051 mi2), roughly two-thirds of the way toward the goal. The ministry management region containing Maluku (WPP-RI 715) contains the largest percentage of conserved waters.

A beach on a small island in Tanimbar, Maluku. Image via Shutterstock.

“We are proud that the four MPAs were made official by the national ministry,” said Imam Musthofa, the head of WWF Indonesia’s oceans and fisheries program. WWF Indonesia has been supporting the Maluku provincial government in its MPA initiative since 2015 by holding participative mapping activities with stakeholders to identify conservation targets and zoning that parties at the national, regional and local levels can agree on.

The MPA area around Damer and Tanimbar islands preserves coral reefs and seagrass beds. The MPA around Damer is also habitat for green turtles (Chelonia mydas) and scalloped hammerhead sharks (Sphyrna lewini). The MPA in the waters of Mdona Hiera, Lakor, Moa and Letti islands conserves areas known to have reef fish spawning aggregations. The waters set aside in the Romang archipelago contain an underwater canyon, habitat for species including hammerhead sharks, and diverse coral reef, seagrass and mangrove ecosystems.

The new MPAs don’t completely cordon off these waters to ship traffic and development. In fact, one of the MPAs, the Mdona Hiera, Lakor, Moa and Letti MPA, is in the waters hugging the coast of the district capital of Southwest Maluku, home to a thriving seafood wet market. Here, on Moa Island’s Tiaku Beach, un-iced octopus, lobster and a variety of fish are available every morning. Fishing is still allowed in 90-95% of Maluku’s newly managed MPA waters (6,066 km2, or 2,342 mi2). Some 4-9% of each MPA is set aside as a “core zone” or preserve where fishing and tourism are not allowed and only occasional research and monitoring is. This core zone amounts to 758 km2 (293 mi2).

Fish trading activity on Moa Island, Maluku. Image by Luh De Suriyani/WWF Indonesia.

Tracking the expanding network

The marine ministry has two databases to track the growing network of MPAs: the conservation area database system, or SIDAKO; and the evaluation of conservation areas instrument, or EVIKA, which is a repackaging of the ministry’s previous E-KKP3K program.

The EVIKA/KKP3K program assigned a rating to the effectiveness of MPA management based on 17 criteria, including availability of regional infrastructure within the MPA and the status of the marine area’s zoning plans.

Based on answers by the MPA administrators to 74 questions, EVIKA determined if the MPA is run well (level 5 or gold standard), poorly (level 1 or red standard) or in between (level 2 or yellow standard, level 3 or green standard, level 4 or blue standard). Neither the SIDAKO nor EVIKA online databases are viewable to the public.

A version of this story was reported by Mongabay’s Indonesia team and published here on our Indonesian site on Feb. 10, 2022.

Banner image: Panorama of the waters of Damer Island, Maluku, with Mount Wurlali in the distance. Image via Shutterstock.

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