Bintan (the Jakarta Post). Mapur Island could now be considered among the many attractive diving spots in the western part of Indonesia, thanks to Coremap, a coral rehabilitation and management program started in 2004. It is not hard to find the beautiful coral gardens in the waters around the 1.48-hectare island, which is located some 28 nautical miles to the east of Riau Islands province’s capital of Tanjung Pinang.
“There wasn’t as much coral here before,” said the head of Mapur’s coral reef conservation institution (LPSTK), Jamaluddin.
A 2007 research project conducted by the Indonesian Institute of Science (LIPI) concluded that there were 72 species of coral found around the island. The research, conducted at six surrounding locations, found that the coverage of living coral had reached between 43 percent and 81.5 percent, which was categorized as “good”.
The coral reefs are home to some 103 species of fish. It is estimated that there are more than 40,000 fish that occupy each hectare of the area, dominated by the species Chromis atripes. The condition of the reefs was categorized as “poor” during 1990s, when fishermen still used potassium cyanide and dynamite bombs to catch fish.
“Fish bombing was carried out every day,” Jamaluddin said, adding that it was mostly outsiders who committed the destructive fishing, not the local fishermen. “Local people didn’t really pay attention because they were more focused on meeting their daily needs. They were not aware of environmental preservation,” he said.
As the destructive fishing continued to degrade the marine ecosystem, Coremap stepped in and kicked off its program. An initiative by the Ministry of Fishery and Marine Affairs, the Coremap program aims to maintain sustainable management of marine resources that have been degraded by human and natural threats.
The scheme empowers local residents to play active roles in protecting the environment, especially from destructive fishing and overfishing. People in each village under the scheme were responsible for conducting public awareness activities on coral conservation.
Through this program, it is expected that the coverage of living coral in Bintan regency will increase by 2 percent every year.
“The hardest thing is to change the locals’ attitudes. We should approach and teach them how to go about their daily activities while preserving the environment,” said Coremap’s regional advisor for Bintan area, Bambang Wahyudi.
The community has slowly become aware of their responsibility to safeguard the area, Jamaluddin said, and their efforts have begun to bear fruit.
“Outsiders do not come here now, because local fishermen guard the area every night while they are out catching fish. People are thankful that Coremap has encouraged them to protect the environment,” he said. There are 214 families living in Mapur village, 98 percent of which are fishermen.
Increased awareness of the importance of water ecosystem protection from destructive fishing, the local residents set up a protected zone that occupies a 40,000-square meter area where fishing is prohibited.
The secretary of Coremap’s project implementation unit of Bintan regency, AG Turisno, said the protected zone was only allowed to be accessed for education and research purposes.
Coremap not only focuses on environmental preservation, but also aims to improve the livelihoods of local people. A survey on socio-economic conditions conducted by LIPI last year indicated that Mapur villagers’ lives had been significantly improved since 2005.
Per-capita income of the villagers increased by 60 percent, from Rp 194,000 in 2005 to Rp 326,000 in 2007. Jamaluddin said the fishermen could catch between 50 and 60 kilograms of fish per day on average, from which they earned Rp 300,000 profit.
Coremap is targeting an increase of per-capita income by 2 percent each year through alternative livelihood projects, which also involve housewives in the village. Among the projects is the production of kerupuk (fish crackers) and fish breeding in keramba (net cages in water). Under the project, local groups are given job-skills training. As of last year, 450 people had undergone the training.
The kerupuk project is also being conducted in Malang Rapat village, which is located some 53 kilometers from Tanjung Pinang. Housewives in the village are reportedly content that they can help their husbands make money by participating in such an activity.
“Each of us can earn about Rp 200,000 per month,” said Surya, who leads a groups of housewives in the project, which was kicked off last March. The group can usually produce about 35 to 40 kilograms of kerupuk in one day, she said. The kerupuk are sold for Rp 30,000 per kilogram in areas outside the village.
Zul Iskandar, Coremap’s coordinator for the alternative livelihoods project in Bintan regency, said the Coremap team continued to ensure the sustainability of the project while maintaining communication with local groups to accommodate their needs in developing small businesses.
Source: The Jakarta Post – November 18, 2008. By. Desy Nurhayati, Bintan, Riau Islands