Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A note from Conservation International-INDONESIA

This post is written by Dr. Crissy Huffard, of Conservation International.

It’s been a busy two weeks to say the least, and it amazes me what we’ve experienced and been able to learn, thanks to the generosity and support of so many people. We are grateful to the New England Aquarium's Akiko Shiraki Dynner Fund for Ocean Exploration and Conservation, the Waitt Institute, the crew of the Plan B, the crew of the Putripapua, and all participants from Conservation International and MBARI for their enthusiasm- together we established more than four baseline datasets to support a new Marine Protected Area, strategized to find seamounts, and sat in awe as we all shared our first glimpses into the dark and wonderful world below the reefs here.

Batfish are commonly seen in the shallow waters of Raja Ampat, but the unexplored depths contain many fish species yet to be discovered. (Photo: R. Rotjan)

We thanked our lucky stars the tsunami spared Raja Ampat, and send our heartfelt sorrows to those in Japan who were not as fortunate. Our thoughts are with all who have suffered from the tsunami, and we again think of (and thank) the reefs that protected so many people from the full impact of the wave.

Protected by the reef, fish play in the surf on a calm day in Raja Ampat. (Photo: R. Rotjan)

The benefits of this expedition are so many that one might not notice the tremendous behind-the-scenes support that went into planning such an endeavor. I’ve lost track of all the airline tickets, equipment orders, and logistical challenges coordinated by CI, Waitt Insitute and New England Aquarium staff in Sorong, Jakarta, Bali and the US—and that’s before we add weather cancellations, the New Zealand earthquake, missed connections and overbaggage fees to the puzzle. We are exceedingly thankful for you for being on-call without complaint.

On-board the Putripapua: the result of much logistical support and coordination. Thanks to all for the help! Top row: Crissy, Erika, Ronald, Randi; Bottom row: Elvis, Defy, Wilson, Putu, and Erdi.

The spirit of this trip doesn’t stop here. Rather it has become a launching point. We’re busy compiling a report on the conservation value of SE Waigeo based on the results of this trip with the hopes that it will soon become an officially recognized Marine Protected Area in the Raja Ampat MPA Network.

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are important to establish throughout Raja Ampat in order to prevent overfishing and trash accumulation, among other threats to reef health. (Photo: R. Rotjan)

When Ronald stepped onto the Putripapua straight from GIS training in Bogor, we could not have predicted he’d put his new skills to use so quickly and for such an immediate conservation need- he will map our data to help show the distribution of the area’s assets and threats. CI Raja Ampat MPA staff will present these results to community members and the government, and engage in discussion about protecting the area. On a larger scale, we have sparked new collaborations that will continue to support sound conservation science here, and provide natural resource managers with the information they need to protect Raja Ampat’s globally important marine habitats.

A protected whip-coral reef in Raja Ampat (Photo: R. Rotjan)

As we say here- Terima kasih banyak- perjalanan ini mantap! (Thanks so much- this trip was awesome!).

Take care,

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