Editor’s note: Peter Mous is MPA Advisor for the Coral Reef Management and Rehabilitation Program (COREMAP) in Indonesia. Agus Dermawan is Deputy Director for Aquatic Conservation Areas and Marine National Parks (Directorate-General of Marine, Coastal, and Small Islands) in Indonesia’s Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries. Cherryta Yunia is Deputy Director for Conservation Areas, Wetlands, and Essential Ecosystems (Directorate-General of Forest Protection and Nature Conservation) in Indonesia’s Ministry of Forestry.

By Peter J. Mous, Agus Dermawan, Cherryta Yunia

The Coral Reef Management and Rehabilitation Program (COREMAP) represents a major effort by the Government of Indonesia, The World Bank, and the Asian Development Bank toward better management of coral reefs in Indonesia. Although biodiversity conservation remains a welcome side effect, COREMAP is really about people who make a living from the sea. COREMAP is designed with an expectation that catch-per-unit-effort (CPUE) in waters of participating districts will increase by 35% for fish species that mature in 1-2 years, and by 10% for fish species that mature in 5-6 years. COREMAP is also explicit about the way that this goal is to be achieved: by setting aside 10% of reefs in participating districts as no-take areas. One can argue whether setting aside 10% of reefs is sufficient to achieve the expected increase in CPUE, but that is beside the point. What matters is that COREMAP, and therefore the Government of Indonesia, is giving no-take areas a chance to prove their value as a fisheries management tool at scale.

COREMAP aspires to influence nearly half a million hectares (ha) of reef habitat, so going to scale is an essential consideration. In this respect, COREMAP is an innovative program. Various projects and studies demonstrate fishery benefits at individual pilot sites, but COREMAP will show us which approaches toward implementation of no-take areas still work after scaling up by a factor of 10,000 or more. Factors that are often overlooked in pilot projects, such as management costs per ha per year and availability of human resources for development and management, emerge as overriding design criteria.

Challenges in achieving 10% protection

Building on concepts from the Philippines, COREMAP had high expectations for community-managed reserves as a tool to achieve scale. Eight years into the project, these expectations have yet to be fulfilled. Whereas COREMAP established nearly 200 community-managed reserves, most of them are simply too small to achieve scale. The total surface area of COREMAP community-managed reserves approaches some 3500 ha, which is less than 1% of reefs in COREMAP districts. Even if they would all be effectively managed, this would clearly be insufficient to achieve sustainable reef fisheries in each district.

The small average size of community-managed reserves cannot be completely blamed on weaknesses in facilitation. Rather, it appears to be a common trait of this management model, which is partly due to the area of influence of each village. In eastern Indonesia, the median reef area controlled by coastal villages amounts to some 100 ha. Since few villages are inclined to set aside most of their reefs as a no-take area, tiny and small reserves become generally accepted outcomes of village reserve planning. Scale would still have been achievable if reserves could be easily replicated, and if neighboring communities who do not participate in COREMAP would copy the concept from their neighbors. However, independent establishment of village reserves rarely happens, and it has become clear that communities do expect external resources to cover costs for establishment and management. Finally, even if community-managed reserves would achieve 10% coverage, they would generally be too small to protect mid- and large-size commercial fishes such as groupers and snappers from over-exploitation. Scientists recommend a minimum size of 1000 ha for networked no-take areas, which only one COREMAP community-managed reserve (“Mursika” of Mutus village in Raja Ampat, West Papua) approaches. Currently the COREMAP policy is to aim for an average reserve size of 100 ha and a minimum reserve size of 10 ha, but it appears that most COREMAP districts will not achieve this.

Marine protected areas established by the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries and the Ministry of Forestry are generally much bigger than village reserves (thousands of ha), and those that are zoned and effectively managed could contribute to sustainable fisheries. Therefore, COREMAP supports these two government-managed systems as well. The challenge here is to put management systems in place. The fledgling network of the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries and some of the smaller areas managed by the Ministry of Forestry lack operational capacity, even though their legal basis is strong.

Another important issue is that local electorates in Indonesia do not yet accept large no-take areas as a tool for fisheries management. Orang harus makan, or “Man has to eat”, is the prevailing mindset. Few people are ready to accept that conservation of fisheries resources will require hard choices, and therefore local policy makers cannot, and perhaps should not, wholeheartedly support the establishment and enforcement of large no-take areas. Breaking this pattern requires working examples and awareness campaigns that go beyond “Save the Reefs” boilerplate. COREMAP’s slogan “Healthy coral reefs – thriving fish” makes a first attempt at helping the public to connect the dots, but it will take more to raise genuine concern among voters in Indonesia.

The future

Achieving sustainable fisheries management is not only about hectares, efficient zoning plans, and political will. It is also about local availability of human resources for management. It is in this respect that COREMAP holds a major promise for further development of large marine protected areas that are collaboratively managed by professionals from diverse backgrounds. Currently, COREMAP involves hundreds of government officials and thousands of villagers in some aspect of MPA management. If Indonesia is to deliver on international commitments under the Convention on Biological Diversity and on its policy to establish 20 million ha of effectively managed marine protected areas by 2020, it will need every hand in this pool of expertise to make a difference at sea.

For more information:

Peter Mous, COREMAP Phase II, Jakarta Selatan, Indonesia. E-mail: pjmous@gmail.com