Raja Ampat is located on the northwestern tip of West Papua, Indonesia, and lies within Bird’s Head Seascape at the heart of the Coral Triangle. The region is comprised of 4.5 million hectares of ocean, 1500 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, a 3.6 million hectare area of protected coastal and marine space encompassing Cenderawasih Bay in the east, the Raja Ampat archipelago in the west, Kaimana Regency and Triton Bay in the south. Boasting phenomenally high concentrations of marine species, including iconic mega fauna such as Whale Sharks, Manta RaysÂ 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 target for economic development, from fisheries (legal and illegal) and marine tourism, to oil and gas extraction, mining and logging. 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, the government of Raja Ampat and local communities, in collaboration with Conservation International(CI) and The Nature Conservancy(TNC) have established a Marine Park, comprised of a network of Marine Protected Areas(MPAs) under national and/or regional jurisdiction, which currently encompasses over 1.3 million hectares (XXXXget new number that includes Pam and Northern MisoolXXXX). All MPAs include multiple use zones that regulate the activities permitted and forbidden.
Since 2004, this network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) has been in place, and 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 central at the core of all management practice.
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