Conserving Marine and Fishery Potentials in West Papua

West Papua
Sumber : Tribun News

Indonesia, especially West Papua, is well known for its rich natural resources in the marine and fishery sectors. For locals, the ocean plays a significant role in their lives, including as the source of food, money, and livelihood. Hence, those who reside near the sea are most likely to earn a living as fishermen. Both the government and locals understand the importance of the ocean and are committed to conserving the marine and fishery potentials of the province. 

West Papua
Sumber : Dari Laut

Fishery and Marine Potentials in West Papua

In this region, the water area of the Kaimana Sea is the largest contributor of biomass in Southeast Asia, around 228 tons per square kilometer. There are approximately 959 types of reef fish, 471 types of coral, 28 species of shrimp, and many endemic species that have not been identified.

There are different fishing areas in this province, namely the Pelagic and Demersal zones. Different kinds of fish inhabit different zones. In the Pelagic zones, the most commonly found fishes are tiny sea fishes, oil sardines, Spanish mackerels, and tunas. Meanwhile, the Demersal zones are filled with groupers, red fishes, and swordfishes.

Some fisheries commodities are sea cucumbers, shrimps, lobster, tunas, crabs, Pelagic fish (skippers and mackerels), and Demersal fish (groupers and snappers). Due to their excellent export values, tunas, shrimps, and crabs from West Papua become the province’s best export commodities to Europe, Japan, and the United States.

In Sorong, the other marine potentials that contribute to the province’s income include mangroves, seagrasses, and the coral reefs, which play significant roles as the habitat for fishery resources with high economic value. 

Speaking of mangroves, the six types of mangroves found around the area are Avicennia alba, Brugueira sp, Ceriops tagal, Sonneratia sp, Rhizophora apiculata, and Rhizophora mucronate. The total area of the mangrove ecosystem reaches 354,91 hectares. Moreover, there are six types of seagrasses, namely Cymodocea rotundata, Halodule uninervis, Halophila ovalis, Halophila minor, Thalassia hemprichii, Thalassodendron ciliatum, Syringodium isoetifolium, and Enhalus acoroides

Conservation Areas

West Papua province has declared itself as a conservation province. Until today, the region has nine conservation areas in water, coastal areas, and small islands, including the Cenderawasih Bay National Park and Sabuda Tataruga Island SM (KLHK Management), SAP Raja Ampat, and SAP Waigeo on the West Side (KKP Management), Raja Ampat Islands KKPD, Jeen Womom KKPD, Kaimana KKPD, Berau, and Nusalasi Bay KKPD, and Teo Enebikia KKPD (Provincial Government Management). The total area of the conservation areas reaches 4,397,000 hectares.

How the Locals Conserve Maritime Potentials in West Papua

The stable fisheries stock can be sustained thanks to the local wisdom and traditional fishing methods. The locals who live around the coastal area catch fish using fishing rods, nets, and kalawai (multi-pointed spears). Most of them are still using panggayung (boats without motors).  

Traditional customs also play a significant role in conserving maritime potentials. One of the commonly practiced customs that has been passed down through generations is Sasi Laut. The custom invites those who enter the determined area, both locals and outsiders, to protect specific marine species. Usually, the protected species are sea cucumbers, lola, and batulaga. 

Sasi is applied for a certain period by closing the water area for around one to two years and opens only for two weeks to three months. Before the restriction begins, the locals perform a ritual called Sinara, where they give offerings to the spirits of the oceans such as betel leaf, areca nut, lime betel, chicken, and eggs. The ritual is followed by chanting prayers to ask for blessings from the spirits in the ocean. Then, the restriction begins. The conservation area is determined by local judgment.

Anyone who fishes the protected biotas during the closed season will receive punishment, usually ostracized from its community, from the customary leader. However, since Sasi Laut arrangement is only known verbally, it’s never written on the legal system, making it difficult to punish outsiders.  

The marine and fisheries potentials in West Papua have to be protected at all costs to sustain both the marine ecosystem, the province’s income, and people’s livelihood. Therefore, the role of both the government and the locals is needed.