The Bird’s Head Seascape
off the coast of Indonesia is three times the size of Belgium. Named for the distinctive shape of the northwest corner of the island of Papua, the marine region was the destination of French, British and Dutch expeditions in the early 19th century, but was then largely forgotten until the new millennium.
CI launched an initial survey focused on the Raja Ampat Archipelago (the name means “four kings” for four islands). That survey revealed the area’s reefs to be possibly the most biologically rich on the planet. A world record of 283 fish species were observed on a single dive.
The region garnered international attention in September 2006, when a CI-led scientific expedition announced the discovery of a treasure trove of new marine species, including a “walking” shark.
Raja Ampat, often referred to in dive and nature magazines as “the king of kings” and site of “the world’s richest reefs,” has become one of the most desirable areas in the world for divers to visit. Although the area has shown uncommon resilience to the effects of climate change, including warmer ocean waters, it is currently threatened by a host of human activities ranging from blast and cyanide fishing and shark-finning, to sea turtle hunting and strip mining of coastal areas.
In the face of these threats and to protect Raja Ampat’s richness before it is too late, CI and our partners have implemented a large-scale marine conservation program, designed to help the government and communities strike a balance between sustainable economic development and conservation of the fantastic and unusual species that inhabit their world.