Exploring coral reef in North Maluku Seascape

On April, 22 Wildlife Conservation Society Marine Program conducted ecology survey in four regions in North Maluku province, namely Mare Island, Widi Island, Kayoa Island and Morotai Island. This activity is a collaboration with USAID Sea Project for collecting marine baseline surveys to assess the health of diverse coral reefs. The five-year USAID SEA Project provides support for the Government of Indonesia in marine conservation and sustainable fisheries management in Maluku, North Maluku and West Papua.

This region is well known for number five in priorities marine conservation in Indonesia. This region is not only rich from fisheries resource but also very important for protecting the habitat of marine species. Our finding in this region, the overall coral reef is so fragile especially at Mare Island, the coral substrate was so dominated by branching corals so that very vulnerable from destructive fishing and climate change. On the other side, high recruitment for juvenile coral is very good that describing the flow of ocean current work very well to provide a new place for growing the coral. In Widi island we found a spectacular place which is the coral ecosystem is very robust. This area was dominated by soft coral and hard coral. The good stories are shark sighting is also common, even in a school of 3-4 individuals. Meanwhile, communities from reef fish herbivore are moderate that describing coral reef ecosystem were serviced by it fish to provide new space to grow of its coral. In North to Morotai to Rao island, reefs are fairly good, most of the condition of coral and reef fish are relatively good in Saminyamao and eastern part of Rao Island. If we move to Mitita island at the south of Morotai, aggregation of sharks is witnessed regularly.

The dive team had collected  52 location of baseline data on the abundance and diversity of corals and fish species, as well as key invertebrates such as sea cucumbers which are an important source of livelihood for local communities. Our observation found that several locations were threatened by destructive fishing.  This is a common problem that led to degradation of coral reef across in Indonesia even though there are hope and optimism, as long as we conducted the survey, the team also found a number of marine mega fauna likes shark, manta ray cleaning stations, turtles and dolphins in several locations. The hard coral cover is recorded has >60% percent cover in several locations of area study.  Finally, MPA that will be created in the North Maluku we hope can reduce threats by separat­ing conflicting uses, protecting important fishing areas (e.g., spawning aggregation sites) and also promoting sustainable fisheries.

At this moment, high pressure to coastal ecosystem, especially from destructive fishing and increasing of global warming, has led to degradation of coral reef ecosystem across in Indonesia especially in the last year 2016. So the need of establish MPA (marine protected area) will help protect and manage the unique biodiversity, fisheries and other ecosystem services the seascape provides.

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