Sonny Taswidjaya : In the small hamlet of Lihunu, North Sulawesi, the story goes that dugongs shed tears—and it is this human-like trait that has earned them respect and empathy from locals. But what also sets Lihunu, a village of some 1,300 souls located on Bangka Island apart from others is a decision by the community to protect its coral reefs, seagrass beds, dugong, dolphins, turtles and whales with the establishment of a Marine Sanctuary in 2003. After a management hiatus, WCS is now helping to revive the sanctuary.
WCS has also assisted the district government of North Minhasa and other relevant government agencies to commit to a planning process to establish a 32,000 hectare MPA that encompasses community based MPA sanctuaries in the region
Lack of ‘respect’ for marine wildlife fuels conflict
After a promising start, the sanctuary’s management activities ceased due to lack of outside and internal support from 2005 to 2010. But with increasing foreign and domestic tourists coming to the village, and a largely unregulated fishing industry, a number of serious conflicts occurred between fishers and local people.
This has been fueled by an ingrained habit of eating turtle meat for meals or during parties, with outsiders also catching dugong and turtle using gill nets. This has angered locals who respect marine fauna and see it as a benefit for local tourism.
A new start
With the success of improved management of nearby Marine Sanctuaries, and as part of WCS’ aim to reinvigorate the North Sulawesi local marine managed area (LMMA) with provincial and district governments, in January 2013 a community forum in Lihunu village agreed to initiate a re-building of their Marine Sanctuary management.
With new village regulations legislated, and with support from WCS in ecotourism enterprise training and management planning, communities are now better able to conserve their marine resources from the increasing pressure of tourism and fisheries.
With government participation, prospects of scaling up
Strong support for local community-based MPAs in North Sulawesi has led the district government of North Minahasa to declare support for initiating the establishment of a 32,000 hectare district-level MPA that encompasses the 17 community-based MPAs of North Sulawesi. This provides the basis for improving management and scaling up the network of community-based MPAs in North Sulawesi.
WCS will continue to facilitate meetings among all communities, government and private sector stakeholders to design the new MPA and provide the necessary policy and scientific support for its development.