We have been diving near Daram Island, in the far southeastern corner of the Misool MPA, for the last two days. This area is so remote that the local communities rarely come to this area to fish.
If only the same were true of illegal fishers. Daram’s remoteness attracts illegal fishing operations here from other parts of Indonesia. Our resource-use monitoring here has recorded shark finning boats as well as fishers targeting vulnerable grouper populations.
Shark finning is one of the cruelest practices around. It involves cutting the fins and tail off a shark before discarding the rest of its body, leaving the animal to die a slow and painful death.
Last year, Raja Ampat’s government issued a letter banning shark harvesting in its waters. The Nature Conservancy, Conservation International, Misool Eco Resort, SharkSavers, and Coral Alliance are now working together with the Raja Ampat government to prepare a parliamentary law that will add legal weight to the shark harvesting ban.
During our dives in Daram, we have sadly seen few sharks, but we feel recovery is still possible. This area is being proposed as a large no-take zone, and Misool Eco Resort has begun patrolling this area.
The reefs here are healthy and diverse in terms of both fish and corals. We were pleasantly surprised to see sizable fish populations, especially around the smaller karst islands. On each of our dives, we have encountered groupers, including species that are highly targeted by the live reef fish trade.
Another thing that has surprised us is the number of sea turtles we are observing in the water. We are spotting hawksbill and/or green turtles on every dive! The turtles are often seen feeding on the diverse, colorful sponges of Misool’s reefs.
When these turtles are feeding, they often let divers come in close, provided you approach very slowly. We also found fresh turtle tracks on Daram Island yesterday, suggesting its beach may be an important nesting area. Our data provides further evidence that Misool is a regionally important breeding area for hawksbill turtles, as well as more justification for protecting this area.
So, despite gray skies and heavy downpour of rain the last two days, we thoroughly enjoyed our surveys in Daram.
Explore further coverage of this expedition on nature.org and learn more about the Conservancy’s involvement in the game-changing Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Security.
(First image: Grey reef shark at Warakareket. First image credit: Purwanto/TNC. Second image: Hawksbill turtle at Warakareket South. Second image credit: Purwanto/TNC.)