Indonesia: Savu Sea

Places We Protect

The waters of the Savu Sea are the primary source of food and resources for local communities.

In Finding Nemo, Nemo’s dad Marlin is helped along on his mission to find Nemo by a powerful underwater current. This current served as a virtual highway for turtles, marine mammals and a determined clownfish searching for his lost son.

The story may have been made in Hollywood, but currents like this do exist, and one of them is the Indonesian Throughflow in the Savu Sea.

The Savu Sea lies at the intersection of the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Its deep ocean trenches (which can extend downward to more than 6,500 feet) are a highway for migrating cetaceans and turtles and are used by 14 species of whale, including the blue whale. These areas also act as nurseries and feeding grounds for whales and dolphins, which are attracted to these highly productive waters. And sea turtles surf on the exceptionally strong currents of the Indonesian Throughflow to reach favored beaches for nesting.

Refuge for Marine Life and Fisheries

The combination of strong currents and steep underwater cliffs make the Savu Sea ideal for these migrating endangered species. But just as importantly, they cause cold-water, nutrient-rich upwellings that serve two purposes. First, they keep the corals cool and protect them from bleaching during periods of increased water temperature. Second, the nutrients make marine habitats more productive, helping them support large populations of fish such as tuna and making the Savu Sea the "bread basket" of the Lesser Sunda.

As a result, the Savu Sea is one of the most resilient and adaptive tropical marine ecosystems in the world in terms of future climate change impacts, particularly sea temperature rise.

If properly protected, the Savu Sea will become a refuge for coral reefs, large marine life and productive fisheries amid global climate change.


Unfortunately, demands from the world’s fish market in tandem with growing populations in the coastal communities of the Savu Sea, is resulting in unsustainable fishery harvests, by-catch of marine mammals and turtles. Destructive fishing practices like dynamite and cyanide fishing are also still occurring. These threats are damaging marine systems and spoiling coastal habitats.

The rich waters of the Savu Sea are the primary source of food and resources for local communities today. Introducing sustainable economic development and refuges for fisheries will ensure the same opportunities are available for future generations.

Lifeline to the Reefs

In response to these growing threats and the global importance of the Savu Sea, the Conservancy and partners are supporting the Savu Sea Marine Protected Area (MPA) Development Project. The project was initiated by the Indonesian Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries, which then invited the Conservancy to participate in the design and implementation of what has developed into a network of two interconnected MPAs. Encompassing an area of 8.6 million acres, the network of MPAs in the Suva Sea is part of a larger network of MPAs across the more than 110 million acre Lesser Sunda seascape.

These protected areas are interconnected across the broader region to increase the likelihood of reef survival worldwide and reduce the risk that catastrophic events, such as bleaching, will destroy entire reef ecosystems.

By ensuring connectivity among protected reef habitats, coral communities, cetacean corridors and fish stocks have a better chance of being replenished from nearby healthy reefs. And by partnering with local communities, governments and other conservation organizations to sustainably manage marine resources of the Savu Sea — and the larger Lesser Sunda network — we can protect the reefs and fisheries not only for the sake of the nature but for people all over the world.

View a map of the Savu Sea Marine Protected Area.

The Savu Sea MPA Development Project was made possible through support provided by The Nature Conservancy and the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety. The Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety supports this project within the framework of the International Climate Initiative.



Protecting food security in the Lesser Sunda eco-region

Indonesia is home to the world’s most diverse coral reefs and tens of millions of people rely on these reefs and coastal areas as a source of food and direct income.