Ketut Sarjana Putra & Mark V. Erdmann , Conservation International Indonesia Marine Program — When it comes to coral reefs, Indonesia is a country of superlatives: Not only does it have more coral reef area than any other nation (18 percent of the world’s total reefs), it also ranks first globally for diversity of hard coral species – with more than 620 species or more than 75 percent of the world’s total – and coral reef fish species (more than 2,200 species).
And while they provide billions of dollars’ worth of fisheries products, tourism revenues and ecosystem services such as coastline protection, Indonesia’s reefs are also among the most threatened in the world.
Against this background, it is most appropriate that in August 2007, President Yudhoyono announced that Indonesia would take a position of global leadership in stewardship of coral reefs with the launching of the “Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Security” to improve the management of the world’s most diverse reefs and ensure that they continue to provide benefits to Indonesia long into the future.
In order to guide the implementation of this ambitious Coral Triangle Initiative (CTI), five priority outcomes have been agreed to by the six countries within the CTI, with the first outcome to “designate priority seascapes and ensure their effective management.”
But what exactly, you might ask, is a seascape?
Quite simply, a seascape is a large-scale marine management unit that takes into account the prevalence of “connectivity” in the marine environment and the need to manage the oceans at much larger scales than we normally consider for land-based resources management.
A seascape approach recognizes, for instance, that managing fish stocks is a very different proposition to managing a herd of cattle or a production forest (wherein a 5-hectare plot may be considered a large management unit).
By comparison, many fish species may travel tens to hundreds of kilometers in order to reproduce at a spawning aggregation site, after which the eggs they produce hatch into tiny planktonic fish larvae that may drift with ocean currents for many more kilometers yet again before the fish settle and become adults.
To effectively manage this stock demands a management approach that takes into account the full dispersal and migration capabilities of the fish, which may require an area of millions, if not hundreds of millions of hectares of marine environment.
Similarly, threats to the marine environment such as pollution from oil spills or sedimentation from poor land use practices also require a large-scale approach to management. The fluid nature of the ocean means that an oil spill in one regency will rarely stay contained and may soon threaten the coastline of surrounding regencies.
Just as importantly, human use of marine resources is typically on a large-scale as well; while a farmer may spend his whole life tending a hectare of rice paddy, even small-scale fishers in Indonesia may regularly travel hundreds of kilometers to catch fish (not to mention the larger commercial fleets!).
These important differences between the marine and terrestrial environment require that we take a large-scale, seascape approach to governing Indonesia’s marine realm.
Unfortunately, marine management in Indonesia (and the world, for that matter!) has traditionally taken a much smaller, and often project-based, approach to managing reefs and fish stocks. As an example, many villages have been encouraged to set aside small-scale marine protected areas (MPAs) to provide a refuge for important fish broodstock and ensure the sustainability of their local capture fisheries. Unfortunately, managed in isolation, these MPAs will do little to provide real food security due to the reasons stated above. Management of the marine realm necessarily must be large-scale to be truly effective.
But what exactly is the right scale for a seascape-level approach in Indonesia? While there are examples globally of seascapes that cross international boundaries, we believe strongly that the most appropriate scale for a seascape in Indonesia is at the provincial level.
From a practical standpoint, Indonesia’s governance system already has in place mechanisms for coordination between regencies within a single province. While management of resources across provincial boundaries (or even national boundaries with Indonesia’s neighbors) is possible, the extensive coordination and mutual goodwill required to make such management effective is extremely time-consuming and frequently not practical.
Fortunately, Indonesia already has one working example of a seascape approach to ocean governance in West Papua Province. Though still a work in progress, the Bird’s Head Seascape initiative has brought together the provincial and regency governments of West Papua along with local and international NGOs and coastal community leaders to develop a truly large-scale approach to managing the rich marine resources of the area.
The centerpiece of the Bird’s Head Seascape initiative has been the designation of an ecologically-connected network of ten large MPAs across the seascape, from Kaimana to Raja Ampat to the Abun leatherback turtle MPA in Tambrau to Cendrawasih National Marine Park off Manokwari – for a total of nearly 3.6 million hectares now managed in multiple-use MPAs. While each of these MPAs has their own local management unit, there is also strong coordination between the MPAs and the provincial government is recognizing this overall MPA network in its marine spatial plan as a key tool for ensuring food security from sustainable capture fisheries. The governments of West Papua now also realize the vital importance of maintaining intact catchments and estuary areas, which again due to the connectivity of the marine realm are exceedingly important to many fisheries and maintaining good water quality on coral reefs.
The seascape approach in West Papua goes beyond the MPA network, however.
This integrated management approach is also being used to foster the rapid but sustainable development of marine tourism in the region. The approach is certainly working; Raja Ampat is now one of the most sought-after dive destinations in the world, while Kaimana and Cendrawasih Bay are slated as the next big growth areas.
With Minister of Marine Affairs and Fisheries Fadel Muhammad’s renewed focus on expanding aquaculture production, the seascape approach will also be critical for maintaining the intact marine ecosystems required to both produce healthy adult broodstock and ensure long-term productivity of aquaculture investments.
It is our strong belief that Indonesia’s new focus on a seascape-level approach will usher in a new era in effective marine resource management in Indonesia. More information on the seascape approach and the Bird’s Head Seascape initiative can be found at http://www.conservation.org.
Ketut Sarjana Putra is the director of Marine Program for Conservation International-Indonesia, one of the Indonesia leading scientist on turtle conservation and sustainable fisheries management. Mark Erdmann is the senior adviser for Conservation International Marine Program, a Pew Fellow in Marine Conservation who has (co) authored over 90 scientific articles and two books.
Source: the Jakarta Post