A giant clam and healthy coral reef in the Coral Triangle. Photo © Ian Shive.

This is the fifth and last in a multi-part series chronicling Conservancy scientist Alison Green’s trip with the Coral Triangle Center to conduct a rapid marine assessment in the Banda Sea.

The Banda Islands are a high priority for marine conservation, and an important area to expand the coverage of marine protected areas (MPAs) in Indonesia.

The Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries, the local government, local communities and other stakeholders (other government agencies, NGOs and local industries) are planning to build on the existing MPA and traditional management practices to develop an expanded network of MPAs in the Banda Islands.

Our partner, the Coral Triangle Center (CTC), will provide support for this process. Rili Djohani, Executive Director of the CTC,  says, “Our aim is to facilitate the design of a resilient MPA network for the Banda Islands to maximize the ecological, social and economic benefits of the network by informing, engaging and strengthening the capacity of stakeholders at all levels.”

The Nature Conservancy will continue to provide scientific advice for this process through the CTC. In fact, the results of our recent rapid marine assessment are already providing valuable information that is being used to support the design of a resilient MPA network in the Banda Islands.

Our survey found that local coral reef conditions are generally good to excellent, because there are few threats to coral reef communities (although some localized threats, such as coral mining, do exist). Coral reef resilience also seems high, since the reefs display many key indicators of coral reef resilience (see this paper co-authored by the Conservancy’s Elizabeth McLeod), as demonstrated by the rapid recovery of coral communities after they were buried by a lava flow.  

Coral reef fish communities are also in good condition because fishing pressure on the reefs is low. Two notable features of the fish populations are the relatively high numbers of endangered Napoleon Wrasse and the location of several potential reef fish spawning aggregation sites for this and other species threatened by the live reef fish food trade.

Our survey also found that most of the roughly 20,000 residents of the Banda Islands live in 12 villages where they lead subsistence lifestyles based on fishing, although some people still work on the local nutmeg plantation and others are involved in the commercial fisheries industry (mostly for pelagic yellowfin tuna). While the traditional management practice known as sasi is now rarely practiced, it is still used on Hatta Island where it has helped create temporary no-take zones to replenish populations of trochus and sea cucumbers.

Since the survey, we’ve used our results to develop biophysical and socioeconomic design principles to guide the MPA network design. The biophysical design principles are aimed atachieving biological objectives by taking key biological and physical processes into account. These principles (which are based on a recent report Conservancy scientists produced for the Coral Triangle) include: creating a large multiple-use MPA that  includes as much of the coastal ecosystem as possible; protecting at least 20 percent (and three widely separated examples) of each habitat type in no-take marine reserves; protecting critical areas in marine reserves (e.g. reef fish spawning aggregation sites, resilient sites); taking movement patterns of key species (e.g. Napoleon Wrasse) into account in the size, spacing and location of marine reserves; and ensuring that marine reserves are in place for the long-term (20-40 years), preferably permanently.

The CTC’s Rili Djohani (second from right) attends a traditional ceremony to bless sea activities so that fishing will be optimal in the Banda Islands. Image source: CTC.

The socioeconomic design principles feeding into the design process (which are similar to those outlined in this paper— lead-authored by a Conservancy scientist—on the MPA network in Raja Ampat) are aimed at maximizing benefits and minimizing costs to local communities and sustainable industries (subsistence fisheries and tourism). They include recognizing needs to: respect the local marine tenure system and community rights by ensuring local communities are central to the decision-making process; incorporate traditional knowledge and fisheries management practices; protect areas of cultural-traditional importance; support subsistence fisheries and sustainable industries (e.g. ecotourism); share the costs and benefits of the MPA fairly among communities; and minimize conflicting uses (e.g. tourism and fisheries).

Over the next few months, the CTC will discuss the results of our survey and recommended design principles with stakeholders at the village, district and provincial levels in the Banda Islands to ensure that they comply with their needs and interests.

If these principles are applied and implemented effectively, the proposed MPA network will be designed to maximize the benefits to local communities and other key stakeholders by ensuring that local industries (fisheries and tourism) are sustainable and biodiversity is protected in the face of climate change.

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