Located southwest of Waigeo Island, northwest of Batanta Island and directly adjacent to the Halmahera Sea, lies the Fam Islands Marine Protected Area. The small karst islands found within this MPA are often described as a “miniature Wayag”, and have now become one of the more popular tourist destinations in Raja Ampat due to the incredible natural beauty both above and below the water.
Lying within the Dampier Strait, the Fam Islands are part of the West Waigeo Islands District, and can be divided into three island clusters; the Piaynemo islands, Pam (Fam) and surrounding islands, and the Bamboo islands. Three villages occupy these otherwise uninhabited islands; Fam Village on the ‘small’ island of Fam, and Saukabu and Saupapir on the ‘big’ island of Fam. In addition to these three small villages, there are several other small settlements that are either business locations or temporary dwellings related to their work.
The Fam Islands became a Marine Protected Area at the request of a local community initiative, whereby local people wanted to protect and preserve the abundance of marine resources lying beneath the water surrounding the islands. Through a collaboration between local communities, Raja Ampat Marine Park Authority, local and provincial government and Conservation International (CI), the Fam Islands MPA was officially declared an MPA in January 2017.
Reefs in the Fam Islands are vibrant with large areas of hard coral containing an abundance marine life. Larger predatory species such as sharks and tuna, brightly coloured reef fish such as anthers and damsels, and centuries old Tridacna Clams mingle amongst a tangle of soft and hard coral. The reefs are largely fringing reefs, with some patch reefs, contoured along reef slopes, and on occasion, steep drop offs. In 2018, reef health monitoring at 24 sites within the Fam Islands noted the percentage of hard coral cover was 31.93%; an increase of 2.03% from the previous survey conducted in 2017 (In, 2018).
Known for its rich abundance of marine species, the Fam Islands has some of the highest diversity of reef fish species known in Raja Ampat. The results of a marine rapid assessment program (MRAP) conducted by CI and Raja Ampat Marine Park Authority in 2013 recorded 707 species of reef fish representing 238 genera and 69 families. The survey also recorded 18 reef fish species that had never been recorded before in Raja Ampat or the Bird’s Head Seascape region (see video above).
During the 2013 MRAP, Dr. Gerald Allen, using the Coral Fish Diversity Index (CFDI) estimated the potential number of reef fish in the Fam Islands to reach 854 species, with each individual site monitored showing more then 200 species. In terms of fish biomas per hectare, in the Fam Islands reef fish are in abundance, at 2,306.08 kg / hectare. Key fisheries species (family Lutjanidae, Serranidae and Hemulidae) are documented at 211.20 kg / hectare, while functional reef fish (family Acanthuridae, Scaridae and Siganidae) were documented at 789.03 kg / hectare in 2018.
The waters surrounding the Fam Islands are also an important habitat for iconic species such as sharks, Napoleon fish, two types of turtles, both species of manta ray and marine mammals such as whales and dolphins. Dugongs have been seen on the east coast of Piaynemo, whilst whale sharks have been recorded on the western atoll of Piaynemo (Fudge 2011), and again by recreational divers in Melissa’s Garden in early 2016.
Although the area is not large compared to other conservation areas in Raja Ampat, the rich biodiversity extends beyond coral reefs, with a network of mangrove forest on the Fam Islands, in the western part of Meoskor Island, the eastern part and around the Piaynemo lagoon, and in an area called Arpos on Pam Besar Island.
Fam Island MPA is also a known location for the largest land crab in the world, the Coconut Crab (Birgus latro), a protected species in Indonesia. Unfortunately there are instances in which Coconut Crabs are captured and sold for their meat. The capture and trade of Coconut Crabs is forbidden throughout Raja Ampat, and wider Indonesia, and those caught conducting or participating in these activities will be considered in breach of the law.
Zoning – Fam Islands MPA
Click Map to expand, and refer to Legend below
The table below provides a general description of the main activities that occur within Marine Protected Areas. For a detailed description of all activities affected by Zoning Regulation, please refer to Table 14, pages 48-51 of the Raja Ampat Marine Park Management and Zonation Plan 2019-2038
Click table to englarge.