Management Plan of Wakatobi National Park Leads to Increased Stakeholder Engagement Through Monitoring Efforts



Wakatobi National Park, Southeast Sulawesi, Indonesia

The challenge

Wakatobi is named after the four main islands of Wangi-Wangi, Kaledupa, Tomia, and Binongko, which together with 35 smaller islands comprise the Tukang Besi Archipelago at the southeastern tip of Sulawesi, Indonesia. Located within the Coral Triangle, the area is known for its exceptional coral reef diversity and its marine resources have high economic value, particularly for fisheries. Most of the 100,000 residents of the Wakatobi district depend on the sea for their livelihood. To improve management of the reefs and surrounding waters, 3.4 million acres of islands and waters were declared as the Wakatobi National Park (WNP) in 1996.

Bajo tribal children (Sea gypsies tribe) in Wakatobi National Park, Southeast Sulawesi, Indonesia. The children play with friends and their “koli-koli” (small wooden boat without engine and screen). This is a common daily activity, along with fishing, for bajo children after returning from school. Photo © Marthen Welly/TNC-CTC

Bajo tribal children (Sea gypsies tribe) in Wakatobi National Park, Southeast Sulawesi, Indonesia. The children play with friends and their “koli-koli” (small wooden boat without engine and screen). This is a common daily activity, along with fishing, for bajo children after returning from school. Photo © Marthen Welly/TNC-CTC

In 2003, ecological surveys of the reefs revealed widespread coral damage, primarily from destructive fishing practices (i.e. blast fishing and cyanide fishing) and overfishing. In addition, costal development threatened the coral reef and coastal environment of the area through reclamation and sand and coral mining.

Coral reef in Wakatobi Marine National Park of SE Sulawesi, Indonesia. Photo © Burt Jones and Maurine Shimlock/Secret Sea Visionsopens IMAGE file

Coral reef in Wakatobi Marine National Park of SE Sulawesi, Indonesia. Photo © Burt Jones and Maurine Shimlock/Secret Sea Visions

Actions taken

To address overfishing and destructive fishing practices in Wakatobi, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) worked with the Wakatobi National Park Authority and a broad range of stakeholders to support implementation of a revised management plan. This work included a revision of the zoning plan through extensive technical advice and consultation with partners. By involving local communities, focusing on collaborative management and building a strong legal foundation for the park’s zoning and enforcement, conservation action at Wakatobi is intended to be environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable.

To address threats to coral reefs from climate change, resilience principles were incorporated into the zoning plan including representation and replication of key habitats in no take zones, and protection of critical habitat like fish spawning aggregations and turtle nesting beaches. A number of scenarios for a multiple-use zoning plan, based upon biological, ecological, and socioeconomic features of the area, were produced and modified based on local community input. In 2007, the Director General of Forest Protection and Nature Conservation of the Ministry of Forestry and the Head of the Wakatobi District formally endorsed the Wakatobi National Park’s Zoning Plan.

Wakatobiopens IMAGE file

Zone types include: a core zone of no-take and no-entry, marine zone of no-take, a tourism zone of no-take which allows for only non-extractive tourism activities, and a traditional use zone dedicated for pelagic fisheries.

Key aspects of the management plan include an outreach strategy, surveillance and monitoring. The communication campaign for Wakatobi occured at the village level, at the sub-district level, and at the district level. Frequent meetings reflected the level of engagement, which ensured that the Wakatobi National Park, the Wakatobi district government, and the local communities were well informed about the zoning process. Additionally, media messages are distributed through cable TV to support environmental issues, in general. Although challenging, through the communication campaign, the local communities in Wakatobi have become more experienced and knowledgeable about the benefits of MPAs.

Monitoring vessel in Wakatobi National Park. Photo © TNC/WWFopens IMAGE file

Monitoring vessel in Wakatobi National Park. Photo © TNC/WWF

The surveillance program of Wakatobi includes three components: WNP rangers, local police, local community, local district fisheries and Wakatobi Marine & Fisheries Agency perform surveillance 10 days/month, using Floating Ranger Stations (FRS) around Wakatobi. Additionally, WNP rangers and police perform incidental patrols, and finally, integrated patrols by WNP rangers, Indonesian Navy, police, and the Wakatobi Marine & Fisheries Agency occur several times each month.

There are many monitoring programs in Wakatobi National Park that assess the effectiveness of the management plan:

  • WNP Rangers and Wakatobi Marine & Fisheries Agency record the details of resource users in the park over several days of surveys each month.
  • During the full moon in peak spawning seasons, Wakatobi National Park Authority staff record the number and species of fish at Fish Spawning Aggregation sites.
  • Every 1-2 years, WNP rangers collect data on the condition of fish populations and coral reefs throughout the park.
  • Opportunistic observations of large marine fauna (whales and dolphins) are recorded on all surveys.
  • During the full moon each month, WNP monitoring teams survey turtle nesting beaches and record the species, size and number of nesting turtles.

Every 2 years, WNP rangers monitor seabird habitat and nesting sites, the mangrove forest, and seagrass meadow. Three surveys have been conducted to evaluate stakeholder’s perceptions on the efficiency of MPA management, and to improve the effectiveness of outreach programs by understanding trends in local perceptions.

How successful has it been?

The outcome of the surveys conduced have led to higher support for the MPA and for the zoning system. For example, one community group on Tomia Island adopted the No-take-zone as their fish bank, and then encouraged local fishers to respect the rules and regulations of the No-take-zone. For this effort the community group (Komunto) won the UN Equator Award in 2010. And in 2012, the Wakatobi National Park received the Man and Biosphere Reserve status for its efforts to embrace nature conservation and sustainable development.

Currently Wakatobi NP possesses one of the best biodiversity monitoring team among all the MPA in Indonesia. The biodiversity health monitoring program informed adaptive management for Wakatobi NP. Although Wakatobi NP’ response has not always been rapid enough to address various challenges, it is encouraging to note that the level of awareness and knowledge of Wakatobi NP rangers and the community has increased significantly to detect threats to their marine ecosystems and fishing grounds. To address these challenges, both the Wakatobi district government and Wakatobi NP authority agreed to create a multistakeholder forum comprising key government agencies, and community representatives to improve coordination and strengthen collaboration among key sectors.

Lessons learned and recommendations

  • Stakeholder input from forums with the local community, prior to work in the field, ensures that local community members and the government support the work being done.
  • Extensive work with the local community has enhanced local understanding of MPA benefits, and their need for involvement with Park management.
  • Extensive work with the local government was essential to encourage and advance the shared management regime between the local government and the National Park.
  • Having a solid team, structured work, clear budget allocations, clear tasks and responsibilities among all team members is necessary for an effective project.
  • Extensive monitoring is needed to incorporate comprehensive data analysis, to make sure MPA design and planning align with the biological and ecological characteristics of the area.
  • The Wakatobi National Park and the district government have agreed to form a multi-stakeholder forum to encourage communication among various government agencies and community representatives, promote transparencies, and improve coordination to ensure conservation objectives are implemented to sustain local development.

Funding summary

opens in a new windowUSAID
Packard Foundation
opens in a new windowMargaret A. Cargill Foundation
opens in a new windowWorld Wildlife Fund
opens in a new windowThe Nature Conservancy

Lead organizations

TNC-WWF Joint Program
Wakatobi National Park


Ministry of Forestry, Directorate General of Forest Protection & Nature Conservation
Ministry Fisheries & Marine Affairs
Wakatobi District
opens in a new windowTNC Indonesia Marine Program
opens in a new windowWWF Indonesia Marine Program
Haluoleo University
Indonesian Institute of Science

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