Indonesian Marine Biodiversity
Indonesia is the largest archipelago in the world encompassing more than 17,000 islands. It has 18% of the world’s coral reefs. The population of Indonesia is currently 230 million who are increasingly dependent on marine sources for their food and income. About 70% of the country’s protein sources come from fish and nearly 20% of the country’s GDP is derived from fisheries and other marine related industries.* The marine biodiversity of Indonesia is threatened throughout the archipelago.
*"Defining Geographic Priorities for Marine Conservation Diversity in Indonesia" Huffard, Erdmann and Gunawan.
Why Is Biodiversity Important To Conserve?
The answer to this may sound obvious to many people but why is it so important? Biodiversity plays a vital role in sustaining human life. Ecosystems control and regulate nutrients, air quality, pests, climate, erosion, flood, draught and disease. Biodiversity makes an ecosystem more resilient to natural shocks thus ensuring stable supplies of raw materials and energy. Excessive extraction or harvesting of natural resources damages ecosystems.
Why Conserve Raja Ampat?
According to “Defining Geographic Priorities for Marine Conservation Diversity in Indonesia”, the Papuan eco region of Indonesia was overwhelmingly ranked the top marine biodiversity priority by 16 leading experts. Raja Ampat, or “Four Kings,” encompasses more than 9.8 million acres of land and sea in the epicenter of the Coral Triangle. Recent scientific surveys have recorded the highest coral and fish diversities found anywhere, including 537 coral species— an incredible 75% of all known species — and 1,500 fish species. New species of marine animals are regularly discovered by visiting scientists. Many species remain to be discovered.
Raja Ampat is also an important resident area and migration corridor for cetaceans (whales and dolphins) with 26 species recorded to date. Raja Ampat is internationally recognized as a priority location for conservation with two of the largest international NGOs now working in the area (Conservation International and The Nature Conservancy). The area is sparsely populated with 126 villages and about 35,000 people. The remoteness and low human population are two of the reasons why the area has remained in relatively good condition.
Major threats to the area include illegal fishing (blast and cyanide) and particularly overfishing. Nickel mining remains a significant threat in some locations and recent oil and gas exploration surveys also present a new challenge.
Other threats to the environment include poorly planned and executed infrastructure development which has resulted in sediment pollution and has opened up areas of virgin rainforest to settlement and illegal logging.
Sea Sanctuaries is creating and managing ‘hands on’ conservation programmes to preserve this wilderness and prevent destruction of the environment.