Keeping Fish and Sharks Swimming in Raja Ampat
Located in the Coral Triangle, the heart of the world’s coral reef biodiversity, the seas around Indonesia’s Raja Ampat Islands hold perhaps the richest variety of species in the world.
The threat of diminished seafood stocks from Indonesia is, unfortunately, a severe one. Raja Ampat’s abundant reefs and fish are endangered by destructive fishing practices, poor land use practices and the targeting of endangered species. That’s why the Conservancy is working in close collaboration with the government, communities, partner NGOs and the private sector to find solutions to those problems and protect Raja Ampat’s extraordinary spectrum of underwater life.
Our activities in Raja Ampat have led to important outcomes. In February of 2013, the Conservancy helped enable the Raja Ampat government in declaring its entire 4 million hectares of coastal and marine waters a marine sanctuary. Even after such a short time, this new Kofiau Marine Protected Area is an amazing success: shark populations have nearly tripled already.
To continue supporting sustainable seas in Raja Ampat, The Nature Conservancy is working actively with local government, communities, businesses and other NGOs like World Wildlife Fund and Conservation International to ensure the archipelago remains one of the world’s most biodiverse regions while preserving the valuable marine resources Raja Ampat’s people need to maintain their livelihoods—and the seafood we need to retain our lifestyle here in Hong Kong.
Why Keep Sharks Swimming in Raja Ampat?
With 26 to 73 million sharks killed globally every year, sharks are in serious trouble, and their killing threatens to alter entire ecosystems since sharks are top predators and control the health of populations below them on the food chain. As the world’s largest exporter of shark and shark products, Indonesia is having a serious impact on the global shark population.
“That’s why the declaration of Indonesia’s shark sanctuary by the Raja Ampat government is bold, and the government deserves international recognition for being proactive in protecting these animals in their waters,” said Dr. Sangeeta Mangubhai while she served as a marine scientist with The Nature Conservancy, when the sanctuary was declared. “They’ve done the math, and it’s clear that a live shark is worth much more than a dead one. Shark diving can result in millions of dollars of tourism income annually, which is much more than the money made from killing and selling a shark.”
Conservancy staff and supporters hope the new shark sanctuary in Raja Ampat will inspire other regencies to create their own reserves and sanctuaries. “Perhaps,” wished Dr. Mangubhai, it will even “create a snowball or domino effect that will carry over to other parts of Indonesia and eventually other countries.”