We are excited to announce that the Regent of Raja Ampat, Indonesia, Bupati Drs Marcus Wanma, has declared a Shark Sanctuary for the entire 17,760 square mile area of Raja Ampat. This declaration is a direct response to the proposal presented by Shark Savers and our partner, Misool Eco Resort.
The Bupati has declared that, in Raja Ampat, it is now:
This is an important milestone, as Raja Ampat enjoys the highest marine biodiversity level on the planet with 1397 species of fish and over 600 species of coral recorded. It has also been the scene of destructive overfishing that has severely threatened sharks, mantas, and other vulnerable species.
You may recall that we launched a petition in June of this year, asking for your support to ask the Bupati and other leaders of Raja Ampat to create this sanctuary. Since launching our petition, over 8,500 of you signed, together with hundreds of tourism companies and NGOs urging the creation of the Raja Ampat Shark Sanctuary.
In late September, Shark Savers produced the proposal with Misool Eco Resort's Andrew Miners. The proposal included supporting research, documents, letters of support from Palau, The Maldives, and Hawaii, and the petition signatures and comments. It resembled a telephone book (an information rich and well-designed one).
Andrew Miners held meetings throughout September with various tribal leaders, the Department heads of Tourism and Fisheries, and the Bupati. The response was positive all around. The Bupati said he would follow through with a letter to declare the Shark Sanctuary, which he has now done. Indeed, the Bupati was so enthusiastic about the measure that he has included dugongs, and turtles to our request of sharks, manta rays, and mobulas. He also banned the use of reef bombing, other highly destructive fishing methods, and the aquarium trade.
There are additional steps required to formalize this declaration into law. We are currently working with our partners and the Raja Ampat government to draft the formal legislation to ensure strong protection and stiff penalties for violations. Enforcement strategies, modeled after the Misool NTZ, are being adapted to accommodate this much larger area, but there is still much work to be done. Continued support of the dive and tourism community will be necessary as part of a comprehensive economic and environmental model to enable enforcement and success in this and future Shark Sanctuaries. Structuring and implementing this economic model is central to Shark Savers' Shark Sanctuary Program.
Thank you to all of the individuals, companies and organizations that came forth to support this important initiative. We'd also like to thank Katrien Vandevelde and the Global Shark Initiative for working with us to secure many of the tourism company support, and the Aggressor Fleet for providing the sponsorship to Shark Savers is enabling us to undertake this initiative.
There is much work to be done to move this declaration into a more durable law, as well as to ensure that there is sufficient enforcement behind it. However, even this interim step is a great accomplishment. The aggregated voice of the shark conservation and dive communities—your voice—was critical to receiving the support of the Bupati and the other Raja Ampat leaders. The result will be a new and important Shark Sanctuary in Raja Ampat.