1. Survey in Maluku’s Banda Islands Reveals Healthy Reef Fish Ecosystem
A biophysical survey was conducted on 2-10 November in 22 coral reef sites by the USAID SEA implementing partner Coral Triangle Center (CTC). It aimed to collect coral reef biophysical data (coral cover, fish abundance and diversity, marine biota distribution, etc.) and socio-economic data (demography, fisheries, marine tourism, and traditional wisdom) on coastal and marine resources management. All data resulted from this survey will be used as scientific inputs for MPA design, zoning, and management. The survey showed the reef fish ecosystem in the Banda Islands of Maluku to be in generally healthy condition which means there are more than five coral recruits per square meter and only two diseased corals were seen in 22 sites. The survey also observed only two predators, Drupella shells and Crown of thorns seastars, in one site. The survey also assessed seabird populations in the islands.
Findings indicated that target fish species, including groupers, snappers and giant trevally, were all good size and 736 fish species were observed during the survey. Based on coral fish diversity index calculation and with additional survey sites, it is estimated that around 807 species occur in Banda Islands. Fish diversity was very high and there six fish species were recorded that were not seen in 2012. Coral cover was healthy and diverse with 54 coral genera recorded, which is high even by Indonesian standards. Three seabirds (Great Frigate bird, Red-footed Booby, and Brown Booby) were observed roosting in Manukang Island. These and similar characteristics previously observed across the Banda Islands provide essential reference for designing a network of MPAs and a baseline for future reef health assessments.
In addition, CTC’s recent work this month, which also included a socioeconomic and perception survey in four villages, revealed community support for marine conservation. The survey, which targeted 30 household respondents in each village, collected information on income, demography, fisheries, marine tourism, and traditional wisdom in marine resource management. The information showed a generally positive attitude among respondents toward marine conservation and indicated community support for the establishment of a 48,000-hectare MPA at Ay and Rhun Islands, which were previously declared as an MPA under traditional law and endorsed by a Maluku Governor Decree in December 2016.