Marine Protected Areas and threats to terrestrial biota

Freddy Pattiselanno (Animal Science Department, Universitas Papua, Manokwari)

Why MPA?
According to the data from FAO (2000), approximately 1 billion people depend on fish as their primary source of animal protein. Indonesia’s 17,508 islands have a range of marine and coastal ecosystems that have been intensively commercial and subsistence utilized for various purposes. Exploitation of the coastal zone has an impact on habitat destruction and over-exploitation that continue to be the major problems facing marine resource in Indonesia.

These factors emphasize the urgent need to implement Marine Protected Area (MPA) management plans as part of an overall program to manage Indonesia’s marine resources. The program began in 1982 as part of the marine conservation effort that expected contributes to the sustainability of the nation’s marine resources.

The need for MPA in West Papua
The threats of over-fishing and warming, acidifying, and ris¬ing oceans made the West Papua Province prioritising for marine conservation programmes. On the early 1990s marine conservation initiatives for management and protection has been initiated by WWF/IUCN and since then there are currently 12 MPAs (Figure 1), in the Papuan Bird’s Head Peninsula (BHP).

Figure 1. Map showing the distribution of MPAs in Papua
Figure 1. Map showing the distribution of MPAs in Papua (Mangubhai et al., 2012)

An ecologically-connected network of MPAs across the seascape distributed from Kaimana to Raja Ampat to the Abun leatherback turtle MPA in Tambrau to Cendrawasih National Marine Park of Teluk Wondama and Nabire – for a total of nearly 3.6 million hectares now managed in multiple-use MPAs.

Ecology and social impacts of MPA
Hundreds of studies have examined the ecological impacts of MPAs. No-take protection for example, typically results in increasing an average of organism size, density, biomass and species richness within MPA boundaries. MPAs also have been shown to benefit habitats, for example more coral was preventing compared to unprotected areas.

In addition to ecological beneficial, MPAs may also enhance the flow of ecosystem services. MPAs that protect coastal habitat, such as mangroves or sea grass, could also protect the shoreline from erosion and contribute to carbon sequestration thereby providing regulating services. Other advantages are an increasing in cultural services, such as non-consumptive recreation (e.g., scuba and snorkeling).

Despite the ecological impacts of MPAs, a contribution of MPAs to poverty alleviation and sustainable development remains an area of contention and impacts of MPAs on terrestrial biodiversity are poorly understood.

The social impacts of MPAs are a complex manifestation of MPA governance arrangements, social context, and flows of ecosystem services (Broad & Sanchirico 2008; Charles & Wilson 2009; Mascia & Claus 2009). Generally, there is a tendency on the increase of food security after the establishment of MPA. A shift and diversify of livelihoods have also been recognized especially associated with tourism in MPAs (Broad & Sanchirico 2008). Environment awareness among those inhabitants surrounding MPAs are also enhanced However, some negative social impacts of MPAs have been identified and they included distribution of benefits sharing were not equal among the communities, a high reliance on project assistance, and unmet expectations (Walmsley & White 2003; Christie 2004).

MPA: Protect marine resource Vs onslaught terrestrial resource
Between 2012 and 2013, with support from Skyrail Foundation, Rufford Foundation and SEARCA Seed Fund for Strategic Research and Training (SFRT) Program study on indigenous hunting was conducted across eleven villages at the Abun MPA and Amberbaken in Tambrau. We realized although the villages located along the coast, most households rely on agriculture while other households earning from hunting and paid labor. A socioeconomic research by WWF-US: WWF’s Conservation Science Program on 2011 has also observed that no households earned any income from fishing at the Abun district.

With regard to our purpose in studying indigenous hunting, we observed that wild animals hunting always and continues to be an important aspect of life in rural Papuan communities along the coast. Communities referred to money as the main reason for hunting, while others mentioned hunting was done to supply households with animal protein sources (Figure 2).

Figure 2. Hunter in Imbuan village of Amberbaken eviscerating deer before selling to dealers
Figure 2. Hunter in Imbuan village of Amberbaken eviscerating deer before selling to dealers


Previous lines of evidence indicated that hunting were more common along the coastal areas of BHP. Secondly, almost all coastal residents with different occupational background were engaged in hunting for gaining extra income and obtaining food (Figure 3).

Research assistants enjoying deer barbeque after hunting excursions
Research assistants enjoying deer barbeque after hunting excursions

What we have found passed on a strong signal that local communities are relied on hunting for both sale and food. This circumstance may likely increase pressure on particular species that mostly hunted along the coast. Hunting practices along the coast of BHP also reduced pressure on marine ecosystems and reliance on marine resources that may benefit the Abun MPA management.

Put forward
Our study is still in progress, and we are presently finalizing the final results of the project. However, by acknowledging the negative social impact of MPAs to local communities, at present we draw attention from all stakeholders as early warning from our study shows that MPAs may also create more pressure on terrestrial biodiversity along the BHP.

Further reading:

Hunting at the Abun Regional Marine Protected Areas: A link between wild meat and food security (Hayati Journal of Biosciences 21, 180-186: DOI: 10.4308/hjb.21.4.180)

Commercialization of hunting at the Bird’s Head Peninsula, West Papua (Traffic Bulletin 27, 4-5)

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