Indonesia protects blue whale hotspot…

Great news from MarineBio’s Director of Marine Mammals, Erich Hoyt:

Lembeh Strait, IndonesiaThe Indonesian Marine Affairs and Fisheries Minister Freddy Numberi has announced the designation of the Savu Sea National Marine Park — a blue whale hotspot that becomes the 15th largest MPA in the world. The announcement came at the World Ocean Conference in Manado, Indonesia, in May 2009. Located in the Lesser Sundas of East Nusa Tenggara in eastern Indonesia, the new national marine park is 35,000 sq km. Although it is only 1/10th the size of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, it is an extraordinarily rich area and has the potential to contribute to coral reef, fish and marine mammal conservation in the region.

This high profile designation comes with a flurry of promises in terms of its planned protection. First will be the need to devise a management plan that takes into account current and future threats to the animals and their ecosystems. The Minister has pledged to work with stakeholders and regional government to make this a real marine protected area of international stature.

The Savu Sea MPA forms the largest MPA to date in the so-called Coral Triangle which many conservation groups and governments are working to protect. For nearly a decade, researcher Benjamin Kahn has been carrying out whale and dolphin studies here, and whale protection is a key part of the designation. Situated at the crossroads between the Pacific and Indian Oceans, where strong currents and steep underwater cliffs combine to create seasonal but predictable upwelling zones, the area attracts endangered blue whales as well as sperm whales rated vulnerable by the IUCN. There are also more than a dozen tropical dolphin and small whale species found in the area.

“Long-term management plans will have as a major component cetacean threat mitigation,” says Kahn. “That includes fisheries interactions, noise pollution, shipping, coastal planning and development such as mining. We will also focus on marine mammal tourism potential. Thus the development of the Savu Sea Marine National Park — together with other management and conservation initiatives in the Lesser Sunda-Timor Leste region — signals the first time in Indonesia that an integrated approach has been taken to both deep-sea and shallow-water habitat protection and species management.”

In addition to the Savu Sea Marine National Park, this region has seen the district-level designation of the Alor Marine Protected Area announced recently with a 4,000 square kilometer designation, codified under Indonesia’s decentralisation laws of 2001. There are expected to be more designations in this region over the next 2 years.

— Erich Hoyt, Head, Global Programme on Marine Protected Areas, WDCS

Notes:

  • In 2006, at the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) meeting in Brazil, Indonesia made a commitment to declare at least 10 million hectares (100,000 sq kms) in marine protected areas by 2010 and double that by 2020. With the Savu Sea declaration, Indonesia has now exceeded 100,000 sq kms. However, now besides preparing management plans for these areas, it will be important to set up management bodies, research programmes, monitoring and enforcement.
  • In Minister Freddy Numberi’s address to the World Ocean Conference announcing the new MPA, he thanked The Nature Conservancy and World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Indonesia, as well as gave a special “heartfelt appreciation to the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany, whose support has accelerated the process towards [the] launch of the Savu Sea Marine National Park.”

For more information, see www.cetaceanhabitat.org. Contact: Erich Hoyt, Head, Global Programme on Marine Protected Areas, WDCS, the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society. E-mail: erich.hoyt@wdcs.org

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