Tag: Raja Ampat expedition

Expedition to the Raja Ampat Islands: Happy New Year from the Survey Team!

Written by | January 1st, 2010

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(Editor’s note: Conservancy Senior Marine Scientist Alison Green has just finished an expedition to the Raja Ampat islands in Indonesia — amidst some of the most spectacular and biodiverse coral reef ecosystems in the world. Catch up on all her posts from the expedition.)

And so, after three weeks of diving some of the most awesome reefs in the world, its time to say a fond farewell or “selamat tinggal” to Raja Ampat.

Our trip has been a great success. The team has surveyed 47 sites, refined their monitoring methods, established baseline monitoring at many sites, and revised their reef classification system that they will use to design the resilient network of marine protected areas.

Along the way we have seen many wonderful and amazing sightssea eagles soaring over islands, frigate birds plunging into the sea after schooling anchovies, dolphins frolicking in the water, luxuriant, vibrant, weird and wonderful coral communities, coral reefs teeming with fish, and huge groupers, wrasses, parrotfishes and sharks.

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Expedition to the Raja Ampat Islands: Ecoresort Protects Coral Reefs

Written by | December 30th, 2009

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(Editor’s note: Conservancy Senior Marine Scientist Alison Green is on an expedition to the Raja Ampat islands in Indonesia — amidst some of the most spectacular and biodiverse coral reef ecosystems in the world. Catch up on all her posts from the expedition.)

Here in Southeast Misool there is an excellent example of how ecotourism can protect coral reefs.

We’ve been diving the reefs of Raja Ampat for the last two weeks, and while we’ve seen spectacular coral communities and many small reef fishes, we haven’t seen many big fish.

That’s because large vulnerable reef fishes, such as sharks, large groupers, parrotfishes and wrasses, are the first to disappear when coral reefs are fished.

The best way to protect these species is in large no-take zones, where fishing is prohibited.

Now that the Marine Protected Area (MPA) has been declared, the Conservancy is assisting local regency governments and communities in identifying the best location for no-take zones in Southeast Misool.

Meanwhile, we’d heard that the Misool Eco Resort had already established a large no-take zone (20km long) around their resort, which has been in place for a couple of years.  One of our objectives was to survey areas inside and outside the no-take zone to see if it is working.

Today we surveyed the no-take zone for the first time, and the second we jumped in the water we knew the answer. The first thing that happened was that four sharks came racing up towards us – the first sharks we’ve seen since we got here – fantastic! We also saw large groupers, wrasses and parrotfishes, all of which have been rare or absent in other areas – clear evidence that the no-take zone is working to protect these fishes.

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Expedition to the Raja Ampat Islands: Marine Conservation Agreements

Written by | December 28th, 2009

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(Editor’s note: Conservancy Senior Marine Scientist Alison Green is on an expedition to the Raja Ampat islands in Indonesia — amidst some of the most spectacular and biodiverse coral reef ecosystems in the world. Catch up on all her posts from the expedition.)

There are many ways to do conservation. One approach is to develop Marine Conservation Agreements with people who have exclusive rights over marine areas, such as oyster leases in the United States. Marine conservation agreements help people who depend economically on the ocean through activities like fishing, harvesting and ecotourism to continue using it in ways that also protect biodiversity.

Jay Udelhoven, senior policy advisor for The Nature Conservancy’s Global Marine Team, leads this work for the Conservancy and is currently in Indonesia to assess the feasibility and role of Marine Conservation Agreements (MCAs) in the Coral Triangle.

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Expedition to the Raja Ampat Islands: Exhilarating Diving

Written by | December 26th, 2009

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(Editor’s note: Conservancy Senior Marine Scientist Alison Green is on an expedition to the Raja Ampat islands in Indonesia — amidst some of the most spectacular and biodiverse coral reef ecosystems in the world. Catch up on all her posts from the expedition.)

This afternoon we went on an exhilarating dive at one of Southeast Misool’s most popular dive sites – Kaleidoscope, off the western point of Jef Pele Island.

The dive site is a ridge that extends out from the point at about 20m depth, with precipitous drops on either side. There’s a strong current and the ridge is covered with spectacular sea fans and soft corals.

But the really exciting thing is the big fish. And I mean BIG FISH!!!!!

We saw two huge giant grouper and a large napoleon wrasse – all over 1.5m long! Giant grouper are extremely vulnerable to overfishing and incredibly rare to see these days.

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Expedition to the Raja Ampat Islands: Sacred Lagoon, A Magical Place

Written by | December 23rd, 2009

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(Editor’s note: Conservancy Senior Marine Scientist Alison Green is on an expedition to the Raja Ampat islands in Indonesia — amidst some of the most spectacular and biodiverse coral reef ecosystems in the world. Catch up on all her posts from the expedition.)

This afternoon we went looking for a place that local villagers had told us about — a marine lagoon tucked away in the back of a long bay on Jef Pele Island.

According to local legends, this is a sacred place inhabited by red dolphins. So after we’d finished our dives we decided to go exploring to see if we could find it.

We jumped in the dingy and motored as far back into the bay as we could. When we got there, we could see what looked like a small channel opening into the bay behind the reef. 

Was this the entrance to the sacred lagoon?

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Expedition to the Raja Ampat Islands: A Close Encounter with a Dugong

Written by | December 21st, 2009

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(Editor’s note: Conservancy Senior Marine Scientist Alison Green is on an expedition to the Raja Ampat islands in Indonesia — amidst some of the most spectacular and biodiverse coral reef ecosystems in the world. Catch up on all her posts from the expedition.)

Marine mammals such as whales and dolphins are quite common in Raja Ampat. However dugong — sea cows that feed on seagrasses — are not as common. We don’t know why, but perhaps there has been a decline in their habitat due to human activities. We’ve also heard that they are sometimes caught accidentally in fish traps.

Andreas Muljadi and Purwanto Irawan have the best job on this survey – they get to swim long distances (400m per dive) looking for large reef fishes such as sharks, large groupers, wrasses and parrotfishes, which are particularly vulnerable to over-exploitation.

Yesterday when I surfaced from my dive, I knew that they’d seen something very special because I could hear them yahooing with excitement from the boat.  When I swam over to them, they tried to tell me what they’d seen, but they were so excited that it came out as a jumble of English and Bahasa Indonesian and I couldn’t understand them!

They were excited because they’d just had a close encounter with a dugong, locally known as duyung, on their long swim.

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Expedition to the Raja Ampat Islands: The Beauty of Cooperation

Written by | December 18th, 2009

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(Editor’s note: Conservancy Senior Marine Scientist Alison Green is on an expedition to the Raja Ampat islands in Indonesia — amidst some of the most spectacular and biodiverse coral reef ecosystems in the world. Catch up on all her posts from the expedition.)

While I’m here in Raja Ampat, I’ve been learning more about the excellent conservation work that is happening here in this mega-diverse region. One of the things that has really impressed me is the level of partnerships and collaborations among NGOs, governments and local communities.

In the Bird’s Head Seascape, a region that includes Raja Ampat, The Nature Conservancy is part of a unique tri-institutional partnership with Conservation International and the World Wide Fund for NatureIndonesia. Together, they are implementing an ecosystem-based management program to collect information on the biology, ecology and socioeconomic characteristics of the area.  Based on this information, they are supporting the regency governments and local communities in designing and implementing a resilient network of marine protected areas.

Another great example of how the Conservancy works with partners in Indonesia is the collaboration it has with Reef Check Indonesia and the Wildlife Conservation Society.  These three organizations are working together to study coral reef resilience at a number of sites in Indonesia.

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Expedition to the Raja Ampat Islands: Weird and Wonderful Corals

Written by | December 16th, 2009

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(Editor’s note: Conservancy Senior Marine Scientist Alison Green is on an expedition to the Raja Ampat islands in Indonesia — amidst some of the most spectacular and biodiverse coral reef ecosystems in the world. Catch up on all her posts from the expedition.)

We are in Southeast Misool, which boasts some of the most biologically diverse coral reefs in Raja Ampat…and therefore the world.

But just why is this region so spectacularly diverse?

The diversity is created by the multiple and complex habitats and oceanographic conditions that occur in the area. Currents, exposure to or shelter from winds and waves, water depth and distance to deep oceanic water — all these influence the coral communities that form in the area. According to Sangeeta Mangubhai, who manages the Conservancy’s conservation program in Raja Ampat, Southeast Misool is a perfect example of corals responding to all these environmental factors.

During this expedition, we have dived on reefs that are covered in foliose corals (shaped like cabbages!) and reefs covered in thickets or forests of branching corals. We have dived on reefs that at first glance look dead, but on closer second inspection are covered in corals that form flat sheets that encrust the reef.

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Expedition to the Raja Ampat Islands: Monitoring Coral Reef Resilience

Written by | December 14th, 2009

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(Editor’s note: Conservancy Senior Marine Scientist Alison Green is on an expedition to the Raja Ampat islands in Indonesia — amidst some of the most spectacular and biodiverse coral reef ecosystems in the world. Catch up on all her posts from the expedition.)

In conservation circles, everyone is talking about helping nature adapt to climate change and become more resilient to climate change’s effects. But what does that mean for coral reefs? Part of our expedition here in Raja Ampat is to help discover just that.

As you probably know, coral reefs are seriously threatened by a variety of anthropogenic threats, particularly overexploitation of marine resources, destructive fishing practices and runoff from poor land use practices. But climate change also represents a new and increasing threat to coral reefs and associated ecosystems.

Over half of the world’s reefs have already been lost or are under threat from these activities, with widespread declines in reef health reported from around the world. Urgent action is now required to halt or reverse these threats and declines in coral reef health.

One approach is to manage the reefs for resilience. Resilience is the ability of an ecosystem to absorb shocks and regenerate after natural and human-induced disturbances. For coral reefs, it is the ability of reefs to absorb recurrent disturbances, and rebuild coral communities rather than becoming overgrown by algae. This will be increasingly important in future as disturbances become more frequent and severe with climate change.

So, but what does this have to do with our expedition?

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Expedition to the Raja Ampat Islands: Karst Islands and Carnivorous Plants

Written by | December 11th, 2009

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(Editor’s note: Conservancy Senior Marine Scientist Alison Green is on an expedition to the Raja Ampat islands in Indonesia — amidst some of the most spectacular and biodiverse coral reef ecosystems in the world. Catch up on all her posts from the expedition.)

Raja Ampat is world-famous for hosting the highest marine diversity on earth. But there’s a lot more to Raja Ampat than just coral reefs.

The area also comprises more than 600 stunningly beautiful islands (like the one in the photo above). Many of these are rugged, sharp karst limestone islands, which look like stone temples or mushrooms rising from the sea.

In Southeast Misool, there is a magnificent chain of karst islands called the Wagmab Chain. This island chain is over 10 miles long, and comprises a maze of narrow windy channels, sheltered inlets and bays, and luxuriant coral reefs.

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