Wakatobi National Park, Southeast Sulawesi, Indonesia
Wakatobi archipelago is located on the south east tip of Sulawesi Island, central Indonesia in the heart of the Coral Triangle. Wakatobi is an acronym for the four major islands of Wangi-wangi, Kaledupa, Tomia and Binongko although this region contains a total of 39 islands and several large atolls. In 1996, the government of Indonesia declared Wakatobi National Park (WNP) protecting 1.39 million hectares of the islands and surrounding waters.
Wakatobi National Park encompasses a diverse range of marine habitats. The main islands are surrounded by fringing coral reefs. Parallel to the archipelago of main islands are three large atoll reefs. A number of smaller reefs are located in open waters in the southeastern part of Wakatobi. The reefs are highly diverse with over 942 fish species recorded during biodiversity surveys in Rapid Ecological Assessment.1 WNP is also surrounded by major sea straits that function as migratory corridors for large marine species such as sea turtles and whales, many of which are listed as endangered.
The main threats to WNP are over-fishing and over-exploitation of coral reef resources. Many of the reefs have been affected by destructive reef fishing practices including the use of dynamite and cyanide. Approximately 100,000 people live within the boundaries of WNP so local fishing pressure is high. Outside fishers, typically come from Java-Madura, Sulawesi, and Bali-Lombok, also pose a major threat by adding to fishing pressure and often use destructive fishing methods. These outside fishers target live fish for food and ornamental trade on the international market, and large quantities of fish for domestic consumption.
In 2003, as part of the Indonesian government’s decentralization program, the local government District of Wakatobi was split off from the larger Buton Regency. The boundaries of Wakatobi District align closely with the boundaries of WNP. Wakatobi District Government has independent authority to manage its area, for example, through Regency Laws, District Regulations, and Regent Decrees. With two authorities responsible for management of activities within the Park, there was a strong need for collaborative management to achieve the Park’s conservation and sustainable resource use objectives.
Since 2002, TNC and WWF have worked together as a ‘joint program’ to support both the WNP Authority and Wakatobi District Government in planning and management of WNP and to increase the capacity of staff in the two institutions. The overall objectives of TNC’s and WWF’s support to WNP are to protect marine biodiversity and sustain use of natural resources.
In 2007, revised zoning and management plans for WNP were produced with the support of the TNC-WWF joint program. The zoning plan was officially and jointly signed and enacted by Director General of Forest Protection and Nature Conservation (PHKA) and the Wakatobi District Head on July 23, 2007. It is the first in Indonesia, where the national government and local government agreed to jointly sign the zoning plan and committed to share responsibility to implement the new zoning plan as a tool to ensure achievement of marine ecosystem conservation and sustainable development in Wakatobi. A 25-year management plan has also been developed for WNP and was signed by the Director General of PHKA on June 19, 2008.
Fish Spawning Aggregations (FSAs) in WNP
Wakatobi National Park was known by local communities and management agencies as a site where fish spawning aggregations (FSA) of grouper and snapper occur. Their occurrence was also indicated by the presence of live fish cages for export of grouper for the Live Reef Fish Food Trade (LRFFT) which generally target FSAs as an efficient way to harvest large numbers of high value fish. Identification of the location of FSA sites in WNP began with interviewing fishers in 2003 who identified 30 FSA sites and full moon as the peak spawning time. Verification through field surveys showed that only eight of these locations were currently potential FSAs. Between September 2005 and May 2006, these eight locations were monitored on a routine basis at the time of the full moon. Underwater visual census (UVC) was used to monitor the aggregations by recording the number and size of individual fish of the target species. This preliminary survey indicated that only three of the locations could be classified as functional FSAs.
From July 2005, monthly surveys were made at these three locations. Two locations are spawning sites for Lutjanus bohar (red snapper), while the third is a spawning site for Epinephelus fuscoguttatus (brown-marbled grouper) and Plectropomus areolatus (square/tailed coral grouper). In November 2006, a large aggregation of Plectropomus areolatus exhibiting spawning behavior was observed at a fourth site during reef health monitoring. From December 2006, this location was included in the monthly monitoring.
FSAs monitoring in WNP focuses on the three target species mentioned above, around the full moon. Epinephelus fuscogutattus and P. areolatus can gather in large numbers for spawning, so these two species were selected for long-term monitoring. E. polypekadion was also selected for further monitoring because of its tendency to aggregate and spawn wherever P. areolatus and E. fuscogutattus spawn. Lutjanus bohar was selected for monitoring because of its significant numbers and spawning behaviors, and because it is a target fish for local fishers.
These surveys have shown that there are small but functional FSAs in Wakatobi NP. The total number of fish on the aggregations is low relative to FSAs in Palau, Micronesia and Papua New Guinea, where it is common for hundreds or thousands of individuals to aggregate at the peak of the spawning season.2,3,4 In comparison, the maximum number of P. areolatus and E. fuscogutattus recorded on FSAs in WNP was around 60. These low counts indicate heavy fishing pressure on these species in WNP. Numbers of L. bohar are higher with between 200 and 400 individuals seen regularly. The four monitoring locations in Wakatobi are nevertheless considered very important fish spawning sites. The peak spawning season for the four target species occurs between September and April around the full moon. Over the past five years, the average number of fish at two sites was relatively stable, but at two other sites counts have been decreasing. This decrease is assumed to be a result of continued fishing in these two locations, despite their protection within the no take zones of WNP.
Management of Wakatobi National Park
The TNC-WWF joint program has been working to increase the skills and capacity of the WNP and Wakatobi District staff, especially in diving and biological monitoring and staff are now able to conduct monitoring of FSAs by themselves. Moreover, the monitoring programs has been included in the long-term management plan for WNP (25 years) which has been signed by the Director General of PHKA on June 19, 2008. The WNP Authority has allocated budget for the monitoring activities since they has realized that the activities allow them to measure their management impacts in ensuring the improvement of park ecology, as well as community awareness regarding park management.
TNC-WWF Joint program has also provided support for revision of the zoning and management plans and their implementation. The zoning plan was officially and jointly signed and enacted by Director General of Forest Protection and Nature Conservation (PHKA) and the Head of Wakatobi District in July 2007. This is the first time in Indonesia that the national and local government jointly signed an MPA zoning plan and committed to share responsibility for its implementation. All known FSA sites in WNP are now protected within No Take Zones (NTZ).
A regular patrolling program was started in WNP in October 2007 focusing on coastal areas surrounding inhabited islands. Other key stakeholders (police, navy, army and local communities) also join the patrol system which is conducted at 10 days per month, supplemented by incidental patrols for 2-3 days per month. This activity has resulted in a 90% decrease in the number of incidents of bomb fishing, cyanide fishing, and compressor fishing.5 There is also a decrease in the number and percentage of boats originating outside Wakatobi. This is because much of WNP is classified as a ‘local use zone’ which is allocated only for local small scale fisheries and as compensation for local fishers whose traditional fishing areas may now be protected in NTZs. Therefore, the boats from outside Wakatobi are prohibited from fishing in the areas designated as ‘local use’. The WNP Authority has been conducting regular meetings every three months to review monitoring results and evaluate the monitoring and patrolling programs. In 2008, the District Government constructed surveillance stations in the outer islands of WNP. This has been matched by a commitment from the WNP Authority, the judiciary, and police to prosecute cases resulting from arrests for violating Park regulations. During 2003 – 2009, a total of 32 cases were brought to the courts.
Local fishermen in WNP are also playing a significant role in the management of FSAs in their local area. Their involvement began in 2003 when the TNC-WWF joint program conducted surveys to identify FSAs locations. In WNP, there are four community forums made up of local fishermen and other resource users, one in each of the main islands. The forums are KOMANANGI (Wangi-wangi Island), FORKANI (Kaledupa Island), KOMUNTO (Tomia Island), and FONEB (Binongko Island). The TNC-WWF joint program facilitates regular meetings/training sessions to build the capacity of the Forum members in community organizing, conservation and marine protected areas, and the importance of protecting the FSAs. The TNC-WWF Outreach team working with local facilitators and invite the monitoring team when the groups are discussing marine biology and fisheries topics, such as FSA. As a result the local fishermen have improved their knowledge and understanding of FSAs and support the inclusion of FSA sites within No-Take Zones (NTZs) in the zoning plan.
In June 2006, three fisher groups in Tomia Island (the groups of Potau-tau, Para-para and Lakomai) which are members of KOMUNTO forum, came to an agreement among their members not to fish in three locations they called “fish banks”. Two of the fish banks are also FSA sites, and the other is not (it is close to the Island). In addition, the groups also agreed to monitor and protect their local area from destructive fishing practices and fishing in the fish banks and actively report any illegal fishing activity to the Park Authority. They found that this strategy has been beneficial, since their fish catch has been more stable. In addition, they found that some fish species such as tuna, barracuda, and trevally, which have not been seen in recent years, are starting to return. Fisher groups in other islands also support protection of the FSA sites, but not as actively as the three fisher groups in Tomia Island.
- Long term monitoring of FSAs has been used by both managers and local communities to improve the design and management of WNP and its fishery resources by incorporating FSA sites in No Take Zones managed by both the Park Authority and local communities.
- The monitoring results can be used to target patrols at the FSA sites during peak spawning seasons and moon phases.
- Regular FSAs monitoring should be continued in WNP to determine if protection of these sites in NTZs results in increased number, size and diversity of fish on the aggregations.
- Monitoring results and information on the biology of fish and the theory of ‘fish bank’ can be communicated to stakeholders and used in protection of fisheries for increased security of fisheries resources.
- Trainings and technical assistance (regular meetings) have been the most effective and successful activities in building awareness and support within local communities and village government.
- The causes of overfishing of grouper which has led to depleted spawning aggregations need to be identified, with particular focus on the live reef fish trade.
- It is important to involve key stakeholders (local community/fishers, Wakatobi National Park Authority and the local government) early in the process to encourage the sense of belonging to this program.
- Wakatobi National Park Authority – Forestry Department
- Community groups in Wakatobi
- Local Police, Army, and Navy
- Local NGOs (Yayasan Bahari, Napoleon)
The Nature Conservancy – Indonesia Marine Program
Jl. Pengembak No.2 Sanur – Bali 80228, Indonesia
Phone: +62-361-287272; Fax: +62-361-270737
Primary contact: Joanne Wilson (email@example.com) and Purwanto (firstname.lastname@example.org)
1 Pet-Soede and Erdmann 2004
2 Johannes et al. 1999
3 Rhodes and Sadovy 2002
4 Hamilton and Matawai 2006
5 Purwanto et al. 2010