Pew Marine Fellowship Will Help Reduce Illegal Fishing in Indonesia

CI-Indonesia’s Meity Mongdong has been selected as a recipient of a 2013 Pew Fellowship in Marine Conservation. Here on Human Nature, she discusses her work in the region and what this esteemed award will allow her program to accomplish.

coral reef in Raja Ampat, Indonesia

Coral reef on Indonesia’s Raja Ampat archipelago. the region is populated by small communities who mostly use marine resources for subsistence. (© Keith A. Ellenbogen)

I have been working on marine conservation in Indonesia for 15 years, focusing primarily on sustainable management of marine protected areas (MPAs). For the last seven years, I have been working in the Bird’s Head Seascape in West Papua, building the capacity of local communities and governments to establish and locally manage a network of 12 large MPAs that cover over 3.5 million hectares (8.6 million acres).

One thing I have observed over the years is that lack of enforcement of the laws protecting marine resources is a serious issue. Indonesia is a big country, and other more pressing social problems are often prioritized, while destructive and illegal fishing, logging and many other illegal environmental activities are considered minor crimes and tend to be ignored.

There have been many attempts promoted by NGOs and endorsed by the government to improve the conservation enforcement system and educate police and security agents. Some worked; most didn’t.

In Papua, I found the situation was no different. However, Papua’s unique geography and traditions gave us an idea. West Papua’s Raja Ampat archipelago is a huge, species-rich area inhabited by small communities who mostly use these resources for subsistence. They do this sustainably by opening and closing harvests of fast-growing species including sea cucumber and lobster for a set duration, a tradition known as sasi.

Our work in Raja Ampat and the broader Bird’s Head Seascape has focused on weaving traditional practices such as sasi within more formalized MPA designations and zoning systems in order to strengthen local culture, while improving the management of marine resources.

Building off of that work, my team and I would like to further empower the adat (traditional) councils and law in order to reinforce the country’s formal laws and address some of the limitations on enforcement and prosecution of marine crimes in Papua. We are currently considering the kinds of violation that should be handled by the community council, which ones should be brought up to the national level procedure and what sanctions will be appropriate.

This grant from Pew will allow me to conduct a thorough review of the legal basis for community-based enforcement within the constitutional laws governing natural resource use in Indonesia. CI-Indonesia will then work closely with traditional leaders and government officials to pass a regency law that establishes a formal legal basis for community-led enforcement in Raja Ampat MPAs that will serve as a model for all of Indonesia.

I’m very proud to have been selected as one of Pew’s 2013 marine fellows, and grateful to Pew for the recognition. This is truly an achievement of the entire Raja Ampat team, and I hope the results of our initiative are worthy of this prestigious award.

Meity Mongdong is the marine protected area capacity-building manager for the Bird’s Head Seascape.

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