With assistance from The Nature Conservancy, Indonesia’s Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries recently announced the creation of the Nusa Penida Marine Protected Area.
The protected area safeguards 49,562 acres (20,057 hectares) around the Penida Islands and represents a significant milestone in the Coral Triangle Initiative’s mission to protect the waters and resources that sustain millions of people.
Just a short boat ride from Bali, the Penida Islands are outposts of wild beauty and mystery surrounded by sunken treasure — diverse coral reefs famous for attracting massive ocean sunfish, or mola molas, and mantas, as well as migrating whales, dolphins and hawksbill turtles.
From a shallow bay carpeted in corals to deep ocean channels swept by fast currents to broad forests of huge coral pillars, the diversity of underwater sites here — coupled with exceptionally clear water — makes this a diver’s paradise.
Penida and its two smaller sister islands, Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan, are now considered the premiere scuba diving destination from Bali. Tourism has expanded rapidly in recent years, bringing boat traffic, hotels and restaurants — that means new sources of income for local people, but also pollution.
And not all visitors come to see the marine life — many come to take it. Today fishermen from other islands, areas that have already been depleted by overfishing, are flocking to the Penidas’ rich waters, taking too many fish and using highly destructive modern practices, such as dynamite, cyanide and gill-nets that indiscriminately catch up everything in their paths.
And now climate change is driving increases in sea temperature and acidity levels — factors that can cause coral to bleach and die off.
These new pressures are threatening the very ecosystems that support all life here. The reefs are fragile. Fish supplies are not infinite.
The people of the Penidas have long known the importance of protecting their coral reefs, but new threats require more support and new strategies. The Conservancy is helping local partners create Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) with regulations that will protect the ability of local fishermen to use traditional, sustainable fishing practices, while restricting practices that will eventually rob the islands of coral reefs, the bulwarks of their economies.
Conservancy and partner scientists are studying coral species, reef ecosystems and key marine species. From this study, we are making recommendations on which areas are most important to fully protect, which are most sensitive, what levels of fishing are sustainable, what types of fishing can be sustained over the long term and which areas are best for marine tourism and seaweed farming.
Introduced to the Penidas in the 1980s, seaweed farming is an important source of income for local fishers. The practice has expanded rapidly in recent years and the Conservancy is helping improve seaweed farming methods and minimize impacts on coral reefs.
To build understanding and support for marine conservation in the Penidas, the Conservancy joined with a local group to build a community center where we and our partners can provide trainings, hold workshops and meetings, and share educational resources. We are also participating in the creation of a steering committee of local leaders to oversee the MPA.
“By preserving the reefs we will preserve our main sources of income: marine tourism, fishing and seaweed farming.” says I Wayan Suarbawa, Community Leader, Lembongan Island, Penida.
We are committed to finding conservation solutions that meet the needs of the Penidas’ people as well as some of the planet’s most awe-inspiring marine life.