Protecting Indonesia’s Coral Reefs through Community Conservation

Editor's note: This post by Edy Setyawan, a scientist with Conservation International (CI) in Indonesia, is part of a series chronicling a joint coral reef health monitoring trip in Raja Ampat, Indonesia with CI, The Nature Conservancy and WWF. Blogs from this assessment are being cross-posted on the Nature Conservancy’s Cool Green Science blog.

In addition to assessing coral reef health inside and outside of marine protected areas (MPAs) in the Raja Ampat area, this collaborative survey has also been a great opportunity to help local people gain the experience and capacity to observe and protect their precious marine resources.

Ronald Mambrasar, who is from the village of Arborek on the island of Mansuar and has been working with CI for six years, is responsible for monitoring the seafloor using a systematic data collection method called Point Intercept Transect (PIT). He first joined CI’s monitoring team thanks to a desire to find out about coral reef conditions around his village.

Years later, Ronald is very experienced at collecting reef data, and he says this trip “is a great chance for me to learn.” Ronald is currently in the process of becoming a facilitator to teach communities about MPAs.

Before becoming actively involved with CI, Elvis Mambraku was a fisherman who used potassium cyanide to paralyze and catch fish. In early 2010, Elvis saw CI’s monitoring team (including Ronald) working near his village, and he became interested in their activities. When CI developed an MPA surveillance team made up of local village representatives, Elvis joined the group. After a few months, he attended dive training and learnt how to identify and assess fish amount and abundance. He is now responsible for monitoring activities in Dampier Strait and Mayalibit Bay MPAs.

He now describes potassium cyanide, which is toxic to coral reefs, as his “enemy.”

Elvis’ partner in fish monitoring, Aser Burdam, used to collect sea cucumbers and lobsters from Raja Ampat’s reefs. Aser joined the MPA surveillance team in early 2010; he now spends his time monitoring marine activities and fish populations in the Ayau marine protected area. In his opinion, the training and experiences he has had so far are a valuable investment for the future.

Local communities are an important asset within MPAs. In Raja Ampat, Ronald, Elvis and Aser are leading the way as local people who are aware of the importance of conservation and are actively involved in managing their MPAs. All of us currently taking part in this reef health assessment strongly believe that informed and empowered local communities are our best allies in the pursuit of successful conservation and sustainable development.

Edy Setyawan is CI-Indonesia’s Kaimana marine conservation and science officer.