Sharks and manta rays will now benefit from stronger protections after the 2010 decree designating the Raja Ampat Shark and Ray Sanctuary was formalized into Provincial law today.
The announcement marks the successful second stage of the development of the Raja Ampat Shark and Ray Sanctuary, which was created in 2010 by local Bupati decree with the support of a coalition of conservation organizations, including a Shark Savers’ campaign, petition and presentation of support to the Raja Amapat government. Since the 2010 Bupati decree, Shark Savers participated in the cooperative effort with Conservation International, the Nature Conservancy, WildAid, CORAL, Papua Diving and Misool Eco Resort to elevate the decree into a more permanent and enforceable law.
Tens of millions sharks are killed each year to satisfy the demand for shark fin soup, and Indonesia is one of the largest contributors to the shark fin trade. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nation (FAO), Indonesia exported more than 100,000 tons of shark from 2000-2008, and a report from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LPI) and CSIRO in Australia also confirmed drastic declines in Indonesia’s shark populations. Indeed, Indonesia is the largest shark fishery in the world, so this very large shark and ray sanctuary is a significant sign of progress.
The new protections will allow for easier enforcement of the laws and stiffer penalties for violations. “Raja Ampat is committed to marine protection,” said Dr. Marcus Wanma, Regent of Raja Ampat. “We are proud to be the first district in Indonesia’s waters to declare all fishing of sharks and manta rays off limits.”
Raja Ampat Shark and Manta Sanctuary lies in the heart of the Coral Triangle, one of the most biodiverse places on Earth and a world-renowned diving and ecotourism location with 75% of the world’s coral reefs and 553 species of reef fish.
Hendrik Wairara, Parliament Chairman, reiterated Raja Ampat’s commitment to providing the local economy with sustainable livelihoods: “This legislation establishes a strong legal framework to protect populations of sharks, manta rays and fish species that are important to achieving the government’s goal of sustainable fisheries, a successful coral reef environment and healthy, strong, marine tourism.”
Raja Ampat will celebrate the new protections at a local event and in Jakarta, and will feature the screening of the short film Our Land of Water – Sharks, Guardians of the Sea, produced by Shawn Heinrichs for Shark Savers, CORAL and Save our Seas Foundation. The purpose of the film is to encourage the people of Indonesia to value their shark, coral, and other marine resources and to play an active role in preserving them.