In the ongoing mission to raise awareness of marine and fisheries conservation issues, which have hitherto not been widely discussed, the media represents an essential tool. This is why the ATSEA-2 Project held a meeting with a number of journalists from print and online media in Merauke on Tuesday, 19 October 2021.

First and foremost, the meeting provided an opportunity to share information related to protection efforts with the wider community, while also building bridges between local government and the press – connections that can facilitate clearer and more effective messaging in both directions. The meeting set out to raise awareness of issues such as biodiversity protection and quality of life for marine and fishery resources in eastern Indonesia, especially in Merauke Regency.

Hosted in the meeting room of the Swissbel Merauke Hotel, the event was attended by 36 participants, including the Deputy Regent of Merauke, Head of the Merauke Fisheries Service, representatives of lecturers from the Musamus University of Merauke, the PSPL Workshop Sorong, Merauke Task Force, DFW Indonesia, RPMU ATSEA-2 and various members of the press.

In his opening remarks, the Deputy Regent of Merauke, H. Riduan, S.Sos., M.Pd, confirmed that the meeting was aimed at strengthening the relationship between the regional government, ATSEA-2 and journalists in presenting information related to ATSEA Project activities, especially in Merauke Regency. He also reiterated that members of the media should work in tandem with the government, as they can help to ensure information is disseminated accurately and widely in the public domain.

This message was supported by Dr. Handoko Adi Susanto as the ATSEA-2 Regional Project Manager. According to him, the success of the ATSEA-2 Project will depend on the level of commitment and support from press personnel in Merauke Regency. It is hoped that through this meeting the remit of the media in Merauke Regency can be synergised with the objectives and outputs of the ATSEA-2 Project moving forward.

The event, and the sentiments conveyed by its speakers, were well received by all in attendance, including representatives of the Papuan Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI), the Indonesian Journalists Association (PWI) and the various other media partners who were present. These included representatives from RRI Merauke, Cendrawasih Pos, South Papua Pos, MNC Media, TV One, Metro TV, SCTV, Seputar Papua, Jubi, Kompas TV, Tribun News, MNC TV, Pelita Papua, MCV TV, RMOL Papua, Mitra Pol and also Arafura News.

On the sidelines of the meeting, Muh. Abdul Syah, as the representative of AJI Papua, suggested there was a need for further collaborative activities that could be carried out by the local government, ATSEA-2 and also the media in Merauke Regency, so that a familiar and collaborative dynamic could be properly built, with open channels of information and communication in place.

The meeting drew special attention to Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) #14 Life Below Water (Marine Ecosystems), in which one of the taglines is “No-one Left Behind”. This SDG was interpreted at the meeting to mean that no party should be overlooked in taking responsibility for managing natural resources, including journalists. Furthermore, journalists have an obligation to promote good environmental management, fisheries and community empowerment.

Closing out the activity, Handoko Adi Susanto underlined the importance of media representation, to provide ATSEA-2 Projects with the publicity and the public support they need to be effective and impactful at scale.

Merauke is the largest district in Papua Province. It is home to a substantial and relatively diverse fishery sector, thanks to marine ecosystems that provide habitats for economically important species such as snapper and shrimp. If food security and community welfare are to be maintained in the region, these environmental services need to be conserved.

ATSEA-2 is the second phase of the Arafura & Timor Marine Ecosystem Action (ATSEA) Programme; a regional partnership involving the governments of Indonesia, Timor-Leste and Papua New Guinea, with support from the Australian Government. Since starting in 2019, the Project has worked to improve the quality of life of communities in the ATS area through a combination of restoration, conservation and sustainable management of marine-coastal ecosystems. ATSEA-2 is committed to safeguarding the livelihoods and welfare of coastal communities, particularly in transboundary areas, through the application of a sustainable integrated concept.

(by Johanis Valentino Fofied)