Indonesian Marine Life Still at Risk

Ratri M. Siniwi & Donny Andhika Mononimbar Jakarta Globe 8 Jun 16;

Jakarta. Indonesia's marine life is firmly in the global spotlight as environmental conservation efforts became one of the top trending topics on social media in the lead-up to World Oceans Day.

"As a nation surrounded by the ocean, it must fulfil all the requirements to be a dignified maritime country," the tweet said by the National Scouts, managed by the communications and technology ministry.

Despite the growing international attention, environmental activists and wildlife experts are still fighting to protect threatened marine life across the archipelago.

Indonesia sits on the Coral Triangle marine area, which has 600 different species of reef-building corals and more than 2,000 species of reef fish.

The region is a common migratory route for more than 30 species of marine mammals, especially in the eastern region of Papua.

More than 30 percent of whale and dolphin species are found there, including the rare Blue Whale, and even the Whale Shark.

It is also home to six of the world's seven marine turtle species that are listed as vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Illegal wildlife trading and habitat destruction are the biggest threats to the turtles.

World Wildlife Fund Indonesia revealed last Thursday (02/06) that turtle eggs and meat are widely traded on the black market for consumption, handicrafts, medicine and lifestyle accessories.

The Bali Water Police and Karangasem District Police uncovered a turtle-smuggling operation in April.

They rescued 45 endangered turtles that were intended to be sold for their meat. Bali Police spokesman Heri Wiyanto told BBC Indonesia on April 6 that they had arrested five crewmen.

"As suspected, these turtles are from Madura waters. Once they have recovered, they will be released back to the ocean," Heri said.

Despite the success of operations such as this one, Indonesian turtle expert Windia Adnyana, of Udayana University, said the turtle population was still declining.

"They used fishing nets or 'ghost nets' for trapping these turtles, resulting in their death," Windia told news outlet Republika on Saturday.

Leatherback sea turtles and hawksbill turtles are the most threatened because of habitat damage by predators such as wild pigs, wild dogs and lizards, she said. Meanwhile, various reef fish species are also at risk as their coral habitats in Sekotong, Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara, are damaged by coral bleaching.

The bleaching kills the coral, ultimately leading to the extinction of fish species. Up to 40 percent of Sekotong's corals have suffered from coral bleaching – even corals living 15 meters below the surface – according to research published on the Mongabay Indonesia environmental website by Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries researcher Ofri Johan.

The researcher called for urgent action, citing the coral system in Padang, West Sumatra, as a warning. Ofri said the ecosystem there was still struggling to recover from bleaching that occurred 17 years ago.

Sixty percent of the world's major marine ecosystems have been degraded due to unsustainable methods, such as tourism, according to WWF.

It warns that Indonesia is facing a major threat of deterioration in the quality of marine and coastal habitats, which is mainly due to human activity, including littering the waters.

The tweet shared by Danish ambassador to Indonesia, Timor-Leste, Papua New Guinea and Asean sheds light on the growing issue of plastic waste in oceans, which was highlighted by Maritime and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti.

World Oceans Day is celebrated worldwide on June 8.