Shark, Manta Ray and Dogong Sanctuary
In February 2014 Indonesia declared a vast sanctuary for dugongs, sharks, turtles and manta rays in Raja Ampat. The sanctuary covers 46,000 square kilometers (17,760 square miles) of waters around the Raja Ampat islands in eastern Indonesia, part of the so-called Coral Triangle region of Southeast Asia.
Sharks, manta rays, mobulas, dugongs and turtles are fully protected within the sanctuary, and destructive practices, including reef bombing and the aquarium fish trade, are banned. As the Walton Family Foundation reports, “With support from the Walton Family Foundation, Conservation International and The Nature Conservancy worked together to help the local government of Raja Ampat establish the approximate 18,000 square-miles of ocean surrounding the Raja Ampat islands as a shark and manta ray sanctuary, the first in Indonesia and one of only a few in the world. The shark sanctuary is already inspiring broader change. The bold step of the Raja Ampat government has inspired the national Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries to follow suit, with the Ministry currently considering a national ban on manta ray harvest and protection for the most endangered shark species. Given that Indonesia has the highest rate of shark fishing in the world, the shark sanctuary could be a game changer for shark populations globally.
Through the efforts of a coalition of concerned parties, including Conservation International, The Nature Conservancy, Shark Savers and Misool Ecoresort – all grantees of the Walton Family Foundation – advocates worked with local policymakers to put in place protections for sharks and rays that will also benefit the region’s burgeoning tourism industry. With the creation of the shark sanctuary and a total ban on shark capture and sale, Raja Ampat’s sharks can again rule the reefs. Raja Ampat is emerging as a must-visit destination for recreational divers from around the world and healthy shark populations will continue to build the region’s appeal. Dive tourists have already generated over a million dollars in tourism revenues. Recovery of shark populations will attract more tourists, bringing long-term and sustained economic wealth to the region.
The foundation-funded efforts to protect Raja Ampat’s marine life have helped local residents regain control of their natural resources and their role as stewards of the sea. Protecting the sharks that swim in the waters off Raja Ampat’s shores will further draw tourists to the region, bring prosperity to local families and is the kind of common-sense solution that will bring lasting benefits to the region’s ecosystem and economy.”
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