By Noviar Andayani and Hollie Booth
The Jakarta Post, Monday, October 29, 2018
This week, the Indonesian government hosts the fifth Our Ocean Conference in Bali (OOC18). This meeting gathers leaders in government, conservation and industry from across the globe to generate commitments and actions to maintain the sustainability of our oceans.
This year’s theme — Our Oceans, Our Legacy — recognizes our inextricable relationship with ocean ecosystems: in our past, in the present and for our future.
Sharks form an integral part of our ocean ecosystems and the ties that bind us to our marine environment. Humans evolved from the ocean, and the common evolutionary link for all jawed vertebrates on Earth resembled a shark. In that sense, sharks are our ancestors.
Today, sharks play an important role in maintaining functional and productive ocean ecosystems even as they provide a source of income and food security for millions of people across the world.
In Indonesia, the annual export value of the shark industry is approximately US$125 million. A recent study by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) found that shark dive tourism accounted for approximately $200 million per year.
In the future, Indonesia will depend on healthy shark populations to deliver ecological and socio-economic benefits to its people and the ocean. If populations are well managed, shark tourism could bring more than $500 million per year into the Indonesian economy by 2027, and shark fishing could continue to provide income and a source of animal protein to coastal communities.
Recognizing the important and diverse roles of sharks and their relatives for our oceans and our legacy, there is a need to effectively protect and sustainably manage these species.
To do so, we must acknowledge the diversity of values associated with sharks and the diversity of approaches required to conserve them.
Indonesia has lately shown a strong commitment to shark protection. New regulations have been implemented to safeguard shark species and reduce shark exploitation — in particular to achieve policy targets under multilateral agreements, including the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES), the Convention on Migratory Species and the Convention on Biological Diversity.
In recent years, Indonesia has seen several important shark and ray conservation successes in Indonesia. The Marine Affairs and Fisheries Ministry has developed key policies relating to shark protection and management. In particular, charismatic shark species of high tourism value, including manta rays and whale sharks, have received full protection.
These species protections have been implemented through effective enforcement. More than 500 law enforcement officers in have been trained in techniques for preventing, detecting and investigating marine wildlife crimes. Since 2014, authorities have sentenced 30 illegal shark traders to a total of 64 months of jail time and fined them more than $30,000.
Shark tourism could bring more than $500 million per year into the Indonesian economy.
Collection of comprehensive fisheries and socioeconomic data now inform the development of practical and ethical regulations that balance conservation objectives with the needs of local fishing communities.
These data have helped to develop local- and national-level management measures, including protection of 130,000 hectares of hammerhead shark and wedgefish critical habitat in Aceh and West Nusa Tenggara (NTB) provinces.
The government has likewise declared shark sanctuaries across Komodo National Park and the Raja Ampat regency. NGO partners like WCS and the Misool Foundation have engaged more than 130 fisher households in two major shark-fishing communities in NTB and East Nusa Tenggara to promote sustainable fisheries and livelihoods.
Over the long term, improved shark management will also support delivery of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and promote long-term growth for Indonesia’s economy. The WCS Indonesia Program has been supporting the government in these efforts, taking an integrated top-down/bottom-up approach, which encompasses applied research, policy development, community engagement and sustainable livelihoods and law enforcement.
Through these efforts, WCS’s goal is to support the government to protect the most vulnerable shark species, improve the sustainability of shark fisheries and control trade in shark products.
At OOC18, WCS will launch a new $25 million initiative to deliver 10 examples of comprehensive, science-based shark management reforms across the globe over the next 10 years. As part of this “10 x 10” commitment, WCS’s shark program will continue to invest in saving sharks in Indonesia and highlight Indonesia as a model for building nine similar comprehensive regimes in other priority countries.
In preventing shark declines and species extinctions, we can maintain the sustainability of our oceans’ resources and preserve our ocean’s health as our heritage and legacy for future generations.
Noviar Andayani is Indonesia country director for Wildlife Conservation Society. Hollie Booth is sharks and rays adviser for Southeast Asia at WCS.