In Bird’s Head, illegal activities that threaten the reefs, such as blast and cyanide fishing and turtle poaching, continue unabated. Law enforcement is weak, and the government cannot afford to patrol the area.
However, with help from CI and The Nature Conservancy (TNC), local government officials in the Raja Ampat Archipelago and the villagers who own these reefs are putting in place a marine enforcement system that will eliminate these activities, particularly within the critical marine reserves in Raja Ampat.
The FRS Monaco
In July, CI purchased a 21-meter wooden tuna purse seiner from the North Sulawesi fleet, which has now been transformed into a floating ranger station christened FRS Monaco. Master Australian shipwright Robert Hobman directed the refit of the patrol boat, which should be operational by the end of October 2008.
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|The completed refitted FRS Monaco gets ready to depart the Bitung Harbor to travel to Raja Ampat. © Robert Hobman
When launched, the FRS Monaco will carry a captain, three crew members and a patrol team of eight. The boat will be outfitted with modern electronics, a fast intercept speedboat and fuel and water storage to allow the vessel to stay at sea for up to three weeks at a time to patrol the stunning Kawe (Wayag-Sayang-Uranie) marine protected area (MPA) in northwest Raja Ampat.
Building the Monaco Team
While awaiting the arrival of the FRS Monaco, CI’s Kawe MPA team has been busily preparing. And the recruitment process for the captain, engineer and ship crew is nearly finished.
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The Kawe patrol team has been operational since late 2007, with a total of 42 members, including local villagers, water police officers and fisheries officers. They have been conducting regular patrols using an 11-meter speedboat, but they look forward to the arrival of the Monaco to allow them to spend extended time in known trouble spots where fishermen from outside the area frequently congregate to poach turtles and sharks in the uninhabited reserve.
Local Communities Take Charge
The Kawe MPA, which was declared a protected area in May 2007, received a boost to its protected status in mid-September when the two traditional communities with tenurial rights over the area declared the entire 155,000-hectare MPA closed to all forms of harvest of marine life for the coming year.
|The FRS Monaco ready to depart the Bitung Harbor. © Robert Hobman
The villagers intend to make this closure legally permanent for all species of finfish, with limited harvest of lobsters, topshell and sea cucumbers allowed on a seasonal basis in specific zones within the reserve.
The integrated conservation efforts within the Kawe reserve are already showing results. The turtle nest protection program on Piai Island (implemented by the Papua Sea Turtle Foundation, a CI partner) has effectively eliminated all poaching of nesting turtles over the past two years, and the team has recorded a significant increase in nesting turtles during this period (more than 1,000 green turtle nests in the first nine months of 2008 compared to 973 nests for all of 2007).
Likewise, the team reports that the nesting beaches are now frequented by increasing numbers of black tip reef sharks, which are showing an early comeback after decades of intensive harvesting pressure by shark finners.
You can also read an update on the Species of the Blue Auction. >>