This morning we visited Komodo National Park Authority, where we interns introduced ourselves to the Head of Komodo National Park and the park rangers. For successful conservation it is important that we work with government, dive operators and other local stakeholders.
This afternoon we five young marine scientists had the chance to meet and learn with Muhammad Ichsan and Hollie Booth from the Wildlife Conservation Society. We learned about shark and ray conservation from Hollie, and about WCS’s main project of monitoring shark fisheries at Tanjung Luar, Lombok presented by Ichsan.
Sharks have important values in ocean ecosystems. They are top predators in the food chain, and are key species within the ecosystem. In Indonesia, shark fisheries have increased, whereas their population growth rates are very slow. Eventually, these species may go extinct unless action is taken.
We learned that the international community has taken steps to reduce threats on these species, including through the listing of manta rays, oceanic whitetip sharks, hammerhead sharks and whale sharks under CITES. In Indonesia only manta rays and whale sharks are protected so far, and fishermen are still allowed to catch all other species of shark.
I was surprised to learn that, according to WCS research, sharks are caught as target catch but also as bycatch in many areas. For example, in Meulabouh, Aceh the nursery habitats of hammerhead sharks are not yet protected, and many juvenile hammerheads are caught accidentally by the local shrimp fisheries.
WCS is working in many locations across Indonesia where shark fisheries exist, from bottom-up approaches with local communities to top-down approaches with the government to design effective regulations. I found it interesting to learn about the obstacles they face, such as the impact of policy on fishermen’s livelihoods and taking action when information and data are limited.
I have learned many new things today, and I hope all of us interns can become agents of change to develop sustainable fisheries and manage ocean conservation in Indonesia.