Jakarta. Southeast Sulawesi, as part of the Coral Triangle, is home to Indonesia's most unique marine biodiversity, but major degradation of its coral reefs has taken its toll.
According to the Economic and Natural Resources Secretariat, Southeast Sulawesi has potential catches of up to 542,000 tons of fish annually. To unlock this opportunity, the province has been trying to figure out what has gone wrong in its waters.
During the 12-day Southeast Sulawesi Expedition, the World Wide Fund for Nature Indonesia found that the waters in the region are under threat due to an overpopulation of Crown of Thorns starfish, which prey on corals, damaging the ecosystem.
On top of that, the organization also found that the rampant use of explosives to stun fish has caused coral reefs to degrade, with sedimentation from nickel mining also considered to have caused further damage.
However, the expedition did not only bring bad news but also came up with possible solutions for the recovery of ecosystems in Southeast Sulawesi's waters.
"We have optimized a plan for a network of marine conservation areas in Southeast Sulawesi, implemented through a biophysical environment study to assess the link between the areas," Anung Wijaya, conservation and rehabilitation officer at the Southeast Sulawesi Marine and Fisheries Agency, said in a statement on Tuesday (08/11).
He added that study results recommended three groups of marine conservation area networks in the province. This include the Tesuk Lasolo Marine Park and Southeast Sulawesi Marine Conservation Area.
"Currently, the status of the Southeast Sulawesi Marine Conservation Area is at the preparation stage for a management plan and zoning area. Hopefully, a decision by the Ministry of Fisheries and Maritime Affairs will be concluded soon," Anung said.
Coral recruitment, or the process of tiny coral larvae attaching and establishing themselves in reef communities, was also found to be prevalent in the coastal ecosystems, proving that there are signs of recovery on the reefs.
However, WWF Indonesia believes the good news can only become better if conservation efforts intensify.
"The commitment of changing the status [of the Southeast Sulawesi Marine Conservation Area] requires intensive and strategic conservation efforts, for the sake of preserving marine ecosystems, and an increase in social benefits as well as a sustainable economy for the community," said Imam Mustafa, WWF Indonesia leader for the Sunda Banda Seascape and Fisheries.