The traditional community of Kofiau in Raja Ampat today expressed their strong support and commitment to protect and use their natural marine resources sustainably through a traditional ceremony that endorsed the zoning system for the Kofiau and Boo Marine Protected Area (MPA). The ceremony was held on Gebe Kecil Island, Kofiau, and is supported by the Regency Government of Raja Ampat and international conservation NGO The Nature Conservancy. This declaration is held on the sidelines of the Raja Ampat Festival and Travel Mart, organized by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism on October 20-23.
The Head of the Raja Ampat Marine Affairs and Fisheries Office, Manuel P. Urbinas, in his speech said that the local community has cultural values that determine one’s interactions with nature and knowledge on how to manage and protect their natural world against extinction.
“The government is committed to support ecosystem-based management in the context of the development of Raja Ampat, which has been declared as a maritime regency," he said. "Ecosystem-based management not only protects Raja Ampat’s natural resources, but just as importantly it will ensure that ecosystem services are sustained that will bring significant economic benefits to the people and the regency.”
In 2007, the Raja Ampat Regency Government declared the Raja Ampat MPA Network. One of the six MPAs in that network is the Kofiau and Boo MPA, which covers an area of 170,000 hectares. Raja Ampat is a unique place: it lies in the heart of the Coral Triangle, the epicenter of marine biodiversity in the world, and the people of Raja Ampat have centuries-old practices in managing their natural resources.
The traditional ceremony to endorse the Kofiau MPA zoning system was marked by traditional leader Elias Ambrauw handing over an endorsement letter to the Raja Ampat government, represented by the Head of the Marine Affairs and Fisheries Office. The letter is signed by the clans who hold marine tenure over the waters in Kofiau, and these areas are declared as no-take zones. The traditional leader then gave the mandate to the Raja Ampat government to manage the MPA on behalf of the Kofiau people. The Kofiau MPA has four zones: a food security and tourism zone; a sasi (or area that's closed off by community decree) and traditional use zone; a sustainable fisheries and mariculture zone; and an other-utilization zone.
This ceremony celebrates the commitment of the Kofiau people to protect their marine waters. A rapid ecological assessment conducted by the Conservancy and partners in 2002 showed that there are 293 species of corals (from the total 537 species found in Raja Ampat) and 529 species of reef fish (the highest count in Raja Ampat).
The Conservancy's Portfolio Manager for the Bird’s Head Seascape, Lukas Rumetna, emphasized that the Conservancy applauds the people of Kofiau for their commitment to marine conservation.
“This ceremony is proof that the people of Kofiau acknowledge the importance of protecting their marine resources, the source of livelihood for the majority of the local people," he said. “After a process of four years, we are very encouraged that the Kofiau community has agreed on a zoning system for the MPA, by combining local practices with modern conservation.”
The Conservancy has conducted various monitoring efforts on the condition of the coral reefs, fish spawning aggregation sites and local patterns of resource utilization since 2003. The results of these assessments were combined with existing local natural resources management and practices such as sasi, resulting in a zoning system that is endorsed by the Kofiau people and Raja Ampat government.
Through this declaration, the Kofiau people and Fisheries Office will further strengthen their partnership to protect the Kofiau and Boo MPA from various challenges such as overfishing, destructive fishing practices such as the use of explosives and poison, and the harvesting of protected species.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.