“When I look at the mangrove trees along the coastline of the Imekko — from Kokoda, Metemani, Inanwatan, Kais, Warongge and Bakoi River — the damage is great compared to 30 years ago.”
Johanes Regoy, a member of the Imekko community in South Sorong, West Papua, shares this concern with many of his neighbors. The mangroves of this region provide essential habitat for the extensive shrimp fishery that the Imekko people rely on; and it has been declining rapidly in recent decades.
Rewind to thirty years ago, and the region was fished almost exclusively by the Imekko people and their neighboring West Papuans. But over the years, fishers from other areas of Indonesia have been arriving in increasing numbers to exploit these rich waters.
Since the launch of the USAID SEA Project, implementing partner WWF-Indonesia has been working with the Imekko to reinstate customary management systems in the area, through the establishment of sasi. The sasi areas are determined based on the key commodities for the fishers (shrimp, mud crabs and fish), and to protect indigenous species in the region (particularly sharks, turtles, and coastal birds that are endemic to South Sorong). These areas will then form the basis for a more formalized MPA, with endorsement and support from both the provincial and national government.
Through various activities conducted with the Imekko – including awareness raising, training, and community for a – the community has recognized that the goals of biodiversity conservation and sustainable management align with their own adat goals for a sustainable existence. Johanes Regoy, who has gone on to become a champion for the establishment of the South Sorong MPA, summed it up when he said:
“My prayer has been heard.”
In 2018, an adat declaration provided a clear endorsement for sasi establishment, and showed the communities’ support for the efforts underway in this region. The declaration states:
“The community — through adat leaders, women, tribal leaders, and village heads — hopes that this project will help us to improve living standards in the future. Because marine resources are a necessity for us, our children and our grandchildren; we need to understand how to protect the coastal environment”.
Written by Siti Yasmina Enita and Ehdra Beta Masran, WWF Indonesia.