The Misool Islands Marine Protected Area (MPA) is the largest and most southerly MPA in Raja Ampat. Stretching across 346,189 hectares it encompasses a cluster of limestone islands, whilst the the Misool Islands area itself is divided into three administrative regions, East Misool District, South Misool, and West Misool.
Like many locations in Raja Ampat, the Misool Islands have an abundance of coral, yet it is particularly known for its vibrant soft corals. Rocky outcrops, coral bommies and overhangs are filled with life; giant gorgonian sea fans and tunicates of all sizes, shapes and colours form a backdrop to schools of jacks and barracuda, or even larger schools of fusiliers. Grouper and reef sharks are are spotted regularly, and at the macro level – pygmy seahorses and colourful nudibranchs adorn the corals.
The condition of coral reefs in the Misool Islands MPA are classified as healthy, with coral disease and bleaching recorded as below 1%, and live coral cover at 38.6% (Ahmadia et al., 2017). One of the reasons the reefs are so rich and diverse is the region’s relative location to the deep waters of the Ceram Trough, and the upwelling of nutrients created as the Indonesian Throughflow moves south to the Banda Sea.
Within the Misool Islands MPA, there are secluded beaches that serve as nesting beaches for green turtle (Chelonia mydas) and hawksbill turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata), a number of manta ray aggregation areas, and several river mouths that form natural habitats for saltwater crocodiles.
In addition to its coral reef ecosystems, a number of large mangrove forests exist, including rare Bluewater Mangroves. The distribution of these mangrove forests is quite extensive, including in areas around the villages of Kapatcol, Biga, Gamta, Magei, Fafanlap, and Tomolol, where they provide a habitat for fish, shrimp and crabs – which are important food sources for local people.
Although quite distant from Waisai and Sorong, the Misool Islands are a main tourism destination. In addition to its abundant marine life, on land there is a diverse range of ecosystems. Misool is home to a protected forest area of 115,056.64 hectares, where, as a Nature Reserve, development and human activities is regulated. Management of the reserve is supervised by the West Papua Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BBKSDA); a technical implementation unit of the Ministry of Environment and Forestry (KLHK). Misool is also the location of ancient artefacts in the form of rock paintings, and sacred caves that have been preserved by local people. Another unique feature of the Misool Islands is the existence of three saltwater lakes; cut off from the sea, these lakes provide habitat for stingless jellyfish, and due to the extremely sensitive nature of these saltwater lakes, any visitor must abide by the relevant regulations and Code of Conduct.
In the early 2000s, destructive fishing practices and rampant shark finning were destroying the bio-diverse and ecologically significant reefs around the Misool Islands.
In an effort to overcome this, in 2005 a collaboration between the local community and the private sector – the Misool Eco Resort – produced the first No Take Zone in the Misool Islands.
Since then, this community patrol initiative from Misool Foundation, has worked in collaboration with the Raja Ampat Marine Park Authority in securing the Misool Islands Marine Protected Areas from destructive and unsustainable activities.
Community patrols from the Misool Foundation have a base camp at Misool Eco Resort, and 3 additional surveillance posts throughout the Misool Islands. In addition to routine patrols, rangers from this initiative use radar and drone surveillance to protect Misool’s rich reefs from illegal and destructive fishing practice.
This level of protection has seen incredible success, with biomass increased by 250% over just 6 years (2007 to 2013), and a separate 2012 study indicating there were 25 times more sharks inside the protected areas then there were outside. Oceanic Manta sightings have also increased 25-fold between 2010 and 2016.
As one of the most scenic locations within Raja Ampat, tourism activity in Misool is increasing, and must be managed carefully and sustainably. Local communities, in collaboration with the private sector, local government and NGOs strive to protect Misool Islands territorial waters, and support sustainable development and management through strict zoning, ranger patrol and the traditional practice of ‘sasi’.
Zoning – Misool 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.