Sonny Taswidjaya: Just off from Bahoi village in North Sulawesi, locals are used to a familiar sight: a middle-aged man setting out using his small motorboat to maintain, clean and repair the marker buoys that delineate the boundary of the village’s 10-hectare sanctuary. But this commitment has not come without sacrifices.
Maxi Lahading, the 56-year-old retired head of Bahoi village, works every day to catch fish for his income. He also has voluntarily maintained the Bahoi marine sanctuary for about 10 years. Maxi also monitors the village fishing grounds surrounding the sanctuary for signs of illegal fishing and over the years has educated, confronted and reported violators using dynamite, cyanide and illegal boats and nets.
Through Maxi’s faith and belief in the protection of oceans’ natural resources, his tough but simple approach promotes and educates local communities and fishers to ‘worship’ the sea so the area retains and improves its functions as a breeding ground for fish and as a ‘fish bank’ for supply to local fishing grounds.
According to Maxi, protection of the sanctuary has not been easy, and in 2007 he confronted his brother-in-law who was fishing in the marine sanctuary area using fish poison. With a heavy heart, Pak ‘Maxi’ realised he must “take a firm stand against his in-laws and rebuke and forbid them from future indiscretions”.
Up till then he had been living with his parents in law, but the conflict meant he was forced to move and he currently lives with his sister and her parents. Nowadays he is known and feared by most rogue fishers inside and outside his village, is chairman of sanctuary management board, has stopped, prosecuted and resolved violations through village laws and is respected by the community for the boost in fisheries and tourism the sanctuary has delivered.
With WCS help, the district government of North Minahasa has decided to incorporate Maxi’s MPA within the establishment of a 32,000 hectare district-level MPA that encompasses all 17 community-based MPAs of North Sulawesi. This will provide support for the work Maxi has been involved with over the past 15 years, since USAID initiated the community-based project back in 1998 – an awesome outcome for long-term conservation of northern Sulawesi reefs.