Responsible travel: Marine conservation diving in Raja Ampat, Indonesia
We are a conservation organisation primarily focused on protecting the vulnerable ecosystems in the heart of the Coral Triangle in Indonesia. We are a private charitable trust which works with local communities to develop a comprehensive strategy for conserving some of the most important coastal and marine habitats on Earth.
Our initial area of focus is Raja Ampat which is situated in the Birdís Head area of West Papua, Indonesia which has the highest degree of marine biodiversity. This small area is home to more species of fish, corals and marine invertebrates than anywhere else, however, it is under threat from over exploitation by fishing, mining and logging.
We are committed to educating the nearby villagers so that overfishing becomes a problem of the past and so that they assist in helping to preserve their fragile environment, for example by becoming park rangers or through alternative sources of income.
We think that a conservation project can only succeed if it has the approval and support of the local stakeholders. We are working with village elders and local leaders to establish and enforce the conservation plan.
Our first project is based around the uninhabited island of Penemu in the Pam archipelago which is directly in the path of the strong nutrient rich currents of the Dampier Strait. Unfortunately, the rich populations of fish, invertebrates and corals are a haven for illegal fishermen.
Currently, the Pam archipelago lies outside the existing Gazetted marine protected areas in Raja Ampat. After nearly a year of socialisation and discussion we signed a Marine Conservation Agreement (known as a MCA) in November 2011 with the local stakeholders which has been endorsed by all levels of local government. The MCA runs for a period of 25 years and will enable us to work with the local population to protect these valuable habitats and also reduce the access of illegal fishermen this part of Raja Ampat.
The main objective of the MCA is to create substantial Ďno take zonesí (no fishing of any kind allowed) to protect the existing unique and highly biodiverse ecosystem.
We train and employ local villagers to act as rangers to patrol the No Take Zones to ensure compliance with the terms of the MCA.
Our second project, which started in 2012, is to create and enforce a large second No Take Zone around the remote archipelgo known as Bambu island (or Mios) which is south west of Penemu.
Our first initiative was to donate 2,000 books to the 4 village schools in the Marine Conservation Area - which are being used for English language education to both children and adults. We will also encourage volunteers to assist in English language education as part of our land based community projects.
We also assist local village groups to establish sustainable businesses which are compatible with the conservation targets of the MCA (Marine Conservation Agreement we have put in place) to improve their lives and offer alternative income sources & our initial focus is on tourism related projects such as making Virgin Coconut Oil (VCO) and soap as well as curios for sale to visiting tourists and local resorts. VCO is cold pressed from the meat of locally grown coconuts so the oil retains its natural vitamins and minerals.
We also employ local Papuans in our conservation project in important areas such as rangers to patrol the conservation zone, commuity liason, crew, construction and many other jobs.