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(Editor’s note: Conservancy Senior Marine Scientist Alison Green is on an expedition to the Raja Ampat islands in Indonesia — amidst some of the most spectacular and biodiverse coral reef ecosystems in the world. Catch up on all her posts from the expedition.)

Here in Southeast Misool there is an excellent example of how eco-tourism can protect coral reefs.

We’ve been diving the reefs of Raja Ampat for the last two weeks, and while we’ve seen spectacular coral communities and many small reef fishes, we haven’t seen many big fish.

That’s because large vulnerable reef fishes, such as sharks, large groupers, parrotfishes and wrasses, are the first to disappear when coral reefs are fished.

The best way to protect these species is in large no-take zones, where fishing is prohibited.

Now that the Marine Protected Area (MPA) has been declared, the Conservancy is assisting local regency governments and communities in identifying the best location for no-take zones in Southeast Misool.

Meanwhile, we’d heard that the Misool Eco Resort had already established a large no-take zone (20 kilometers long) around their resort, which has been in place for a couple of years. One of our objectives was to survey areas inside and outside the no-take zone to see if it is working.

Today we surveyed the no-take zone for the first time, and the second we jumped in the water we knew the answer. The first thing that happened was that four sharks came racing up towards us — the first sharks we’ve seen since we got here — fantastic! We also saw large groupers, wrasses and parrotfishes, all of which have been rare or absent in other areas — clear evidence that the no-take zone is working to protect these fishes.

Ecoresort Misool

CORAL REEF CONSERVATION: Misool Ecoresort. (Photo: Sangeeta Mangubhai)

This story demonstrates the important role that industry, in this case an eco-resort, can play in coral reef conservation. Thanks to their dedication, this is first effective no-take zone for coral reef fishes in the Southeast Misool MPA.

Over the next few years, more no-take zones will be identified as part of the MPA design, and implemented by the regency government and local communities with support from the Conservancy and other partners.  Let’s hope that they are as effective as this one!

-- Text by Alison Green, Cool Green Science Blog