“When I used to do Molo (a term used to refer to diving activity using a compressor as an underwater respirator), I often saw fish gathered in Koon waters. Now I know from WWF that school of fish is one of the characteristics of fish spawning. If people in Grogos and around Kataloka customary area understand the benefit of protecting the Koon Fish Market, I believe their spirit will increase. They will protect it voluntarily, not only the King tells them so,” says Samsuddin Rumakat or called Imam, the fisher from Grogos island.
Besides catching fish, Imam was assigned by the King of Kataloka as one of “Leawana Patrol” team members to safeguard the “Fish Market” area, an area in Koon waters filled with various types of fish like a market. He always reports to the King when he finds fishery activity there. Previously he refused to support the conservation efforts in Koon, including the patrol initiative. Slowly he started to understand the benefits of protecting Koon to recover fish stock.
“If people are allowed to catch fish in the Koon Fish Market area, fish that are reproducing will be annoyed. As a result, the juveniles will not be able to develop well. We will get lesser and smaller fish. At first, I disagreed to protect Koon, I did not know the importance of it. I later decided to be involved in conservation because I finally realized that what the government and the King are doing would eventually give benefits for the people in the island,” he says while recalling the moment when he first joined the patrol team.
Since the patrolling activity started in 2011 in Koon, fishing activity in the Fish Market (the fish spawning site) in Koon has been decreasing. If Imam found fishing activity in Koon Fish Market, he approached the fishers softly, conveying information that the area was “a no-take” zone which was prohibited by the King to catch fish.
“Fishers will obey it if we tell them that this is the King’s command. They follow it because they are afraid of being called by the King or police officer. They stop catching fish in the area not because they are aware of the importance of conservation effort in Koon.”
In the future, Imam hopes that people’s awareness will be built and surveillance effort through patrolling activity will get full support from the government.
Besides patrolling in Koon, Imam has also been involved a couple times in the Spawning Aggregation Sites (SPAGs) monitoring activity implemented by WWF-Indonesia with the support from USAID Sustainable Ecosystems Advanced (USAID SEA) Project. Imam and some other villagers in Grogos island joined a series of training to provide him with basic skills and knowledge on SPAG monitoring as well as training to get a diving certificate.
Koon Island is identified as one of the largest fish spawning sites in Maluku. A study conducted by WWF-Indonesia in 2012 revealed that the waters of Koon have a high biodiversity of reef fish species and pelagic fish such as snapper and grouper. Therefore, the local government is managing the area as a conservation area.
(By Masayu Vinanda, USAID SEA Project & Miko Budi Raharjo, WWF)