Waisum Village, located at the eastern end of Mangoli Island, North Maluku, is nearly isolated due to its limited access to practically any mode of transportation. A two-hour public boat ride from Sanana, the capital of Sula Islands Regency, is the only viable transportation for the island’s residents. But half of the year or during May to October, the high tide and strong waves makes sea travel from the island to the capital quite challenging.
Despite the nearly isolated location, the waters around Waisum Village is rich with marine resources, and it attracts fishers from the other islands to catch fish in this area. However, community finds growing threats that potentially destroy the waters from destructive fishing practices such as compressor fishing, muroami, a method that destroys coral reefs so as to scare fish from their coral refuge into the fishing net, fishing with spear gun and fishing in protected areas.
To address these threats and to protect its resources, waisum community formed a community-based surveillance group (Pokmaswas). More community members joined the Pokmaswas and they have confidence in conducting routine patrols to guard the island’s waters from destructive fishing practices. They also regularly filling up their daily logbook to record their observations during sea patrol and report them to the Pokmaswas leader.
La Nafsahu Idrus, the Pokmaswas leader of Waisum Village, said that the community was anxious and scared because the fishers from outside Sula Island came to fish in the protected areas based on local community agreement.
“As pokmaswas leader, we hope the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries will soon pass the zoning regulations so that there is a strong legal basis for cracking down the violators” said La Nafsahu
Confident about the knowledge he gained during various trainings with Coral Triangle Center (CTC) supported by USAID Sustainable Ecosystem Advance (USAID SEA) Project, La Nafsahu Idrus and his Pokmaswas members, advocate the community about the importance of marine conservation to protect marine and fisheries resources.
La Nafsahu engaged the community to involve in beach clean-ups activity and organized community meetings to socialize eco-friendly fishing gear to local fishers. He also socialized and distributed posters of ETP (endangered, threatened, and protected) marine species. Moreover, he also used wedding reception to talk about marine conservation.
“I know it’s unconventional, however, the wedding reception is an effective way to spread conservation messages. I can reach more people; the village head and the local government apparatus also attended the wedding reception. I use this moment to introduce the Pokmaswas and Sea Champion roles to help protect marine resources” La Nafsahu added
La Nafsahu then took an important role in the process of establishing a Marine Protected Area (MPA) in Waisum Village, from informing the community about the importance of MPA, obtaining community approval until the finalization of zoning agreement.
“It was not always easy for me to talk about conservation as most of the villagers did not have the correct information about conservation. They used to think that conservation would obstruct or hinder their means of livelihood. The negative views towards conservation were seen during the public consultation process at the district and village level before obtaining an agreement to establish the MPA zoning in Sula Islands” explained La Nafsahu
Slowly but surely, the villagers began to accept the proposed MPA zoning draft until finally they agreed to establish an MPA in their area. La Nafsahu Idrus is one of the inspirational driving figures and deserves to be an example through his dedication and commitment in protecting marine and fisheries resources. His house in also serves as the Pokmaswas office and information center for Waisum people. It is intended that important information can be immediately conveyed to the public.
“I feel responsible for preserving the legacy of our ancestors so that our children and grandchildren will still have enough marine resources in the future” said La Nafsahu.
In 2018 and 2019, Coral Triangle Center (CTC) through the USAID Sustainable Ecosystems Advanced (USAID SEA) Project conducted a scientific survey on the marine life in Waisum Village to support the provincial government’s plan to establish a marine protected area (MPA) in Sula Islands. The survey revealed that the sea around Waisum has very high biodiversity and is home to different species of sea turtles such as Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricate), Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas) and Leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea). The survey also found that the sea around Waisum is a spawning ground for Napoleon Wrasse (Cheilinus undulatus) and the waters in the northern part of the island is a haven for reef shark species such as Blacktip Sharks (Carcharhinus limbatus) and Tiger Sharks (Galeocerdo cuvier). Most surprisingly, they found Queensland Grouper (Epinephelus lanceolatus) measuring 120 cm and 160 cm, a rare find in this part of Indonesia. The existence of these species demonstrates the importance of the Waisum Sea to help protect marine ecosystem for the region and the country.
Author and photo credit: Kasman & Erni Hartini / CTC
Editor: Melva Aritonang/USAID SEA