Raja Ampat is located on the northwestern tip of West Papua, Indonesia, at the heart of the Coral Triangle. The region includes over 5.2million hectares of ocean, 1411 small islands, cays, and shoals, that surround four main islands of Waigeo, Batanta, Salawati, and Misool. Straddling the Equator, the region contains the richest marine biodiversity on earth, and is one of the last remaining coral strongholds on the planet.
Raja Ampat is part of the Bird’s Head Seascape; 4.6 million hectares of protected coastal and marine space which encompasses Cenderawasih Bay in the east, Raja Ampat islands in the west, Triton Bay in Kaimana Regency, and Fakfak Regency in the south. Boasting phenomenally high concentrations of marine species, including iconic megafauna such as Whale Sharks, Manta Rays and sea turtles, Raja Ampat’s crystalline waters are internationally recognized as the global epicenter of marine biodiversity. Researchers have recorded over 1,600 species of reef fish and over 550 species of coral in the region.
These rich coastal and marine ecosystems offer a wealth of natural services that provide important biological and socio-economic functions, including the provision of a primary source of food and income for local communities. Yet these resources also make it a desirable target for economic development, from fisheries (legal and illegal), oil and gas extraction, mining, logging, tourism and coastal development. The incredible natural wealth and vulnerable location at the rim of the Pacific Ocean, has caused Raja Ampat to suffer greatly over the past decades from poaching, unregulated commercial fishing and damaging fishing practices.
Marine conservation and sustainable resource management in Raja Ampat are high priorities for the national, provincial and regional governments. With the acknowledgement that the region contains a rich natural state found nowhere else in the world, government and local communities, in collaboration with Conservation International(CI), The Nature Conservancy(TNC) and Worldwide Fund For Nature (WWF) established a network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) under the jurisdiction of central and provincial governments. Raja Ampat’s first MPA was established in 2004, with the most recent established in 2019. These MPAs now encompass 2,000,109 hectares, and all MPAs include multiple use zones that regulate activities that are permitted and forbidden within their boundaries.
This level of protection and associated monitoring ensures that this rich and diverse marine ecosystem, the world’s last remaining coral stronghold, is managed sustainably now and into the future, with environment, local community wellbeing and sustainable development at the centre of all management practice.
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