The Indonesian archipelago already has 28.4 million hectares of marine protected areas (MPA) spread out across its waters. Now, the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (MMAF) has committed to developing 30 million hectares of MPAs by 2030. Kolepom Island in the Merauke district of South Papua Province is a pristine marine habitat that supports demersal fisheries, where sawfish and other species are in need of protection from various threats – especially the unsustainable management of local fisheries.

In collaboration with the ATSEA-2 Project, MMAF and UNDP are supporting the province and district government to create the first MPA in Papua – not just to conserve marine biodiversity, but also to provide livelihood opportunities and food security for coastal communities.

During 2019-2021, ATSEA-2 facilitated a series of capacity-building projects for local government and universities, designed to support MPA establishment via the implementation of Governor of Papua Decree Number 188.4/295/2019. This decree aims to establish and maintain the MPA in Kolepom Island by allocating resources for provincial marine spatial planning (RZWP3K).

In addition, during 2020-2021, collaboration with a zonation working group supported data collection for the zonation plan, while also raising awareness among local communities about the important role played by conservation areas. The process has been challenging, not least because Kolepom is one of the outer islands in the Arafura Sea, with limited access and infrastructure support. This makes is difficult to manage the MPA effectively.

By the end of 2022, the provincial government had managed to arrange a series of public consultations and technical consultation to finalise the zonation plan document, as part of the legal draft of MPA establishment. On Friday, 9 December 2022, the Legal and Organizational Bureau of the MMAF held a hybrid meeting for submission of the draft decree of the Minister of Marine Affairs and Fisheries concerning conservation areas in the waters in the Kolepom island region of Papua Province.

Meeting with the Legal and Organizational Bureau of the MMAF on Friday, 9 December 2022.

Held simultaneously in Bogor and in Jayapura (and virtually via Zoom), the meeting was attended by representatives from the Directorate General of Regional Autonomy of the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Directorate General of Regional Development of the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Secretariat General of the MMAF Legal Bureau, the Directorate General of MMAF Marine Spatial Management, the Directorate General of MMAF Capture Fisheries, the Directorate General of MMAF Aquaculture, the Directorate General Strengthening the Competitiveness of MMAF Marine and Fishery Products, Directorate General of Maritime and Fishery Resources Supervision of MMAF, Inspectorate General, MMAF Research and Human Resources Agency, Fish Quarantine Agency, Quality Control and Safety of MMAF Fishery Products, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Service Papua Province, LPSPL Sorong, PT. Hatfield Indonesia and also the National Coordinator Unit of ATSEA-2.

Several issues were discussed at this meeting and various developments presented, including the results of technical evaluation, a zoning map of protected areas, zoning overlay map of RZWP3K protected areas, overlay zoning map and habitats of protected areas and a map of the allocation of subzones for conservation areas, submitted by Sukendi Darmasyah  as Sub-Coordinator of the Regional Conservation Area Group, Sub Directorate of Conservation Area Management, Directorate General of Marine Spatial Management, MMAF.

In the session, which was led by Mohamad Husni as the Coordinator of the Legislative Group, Legal Bureau, MMAF General Secretariat, attendees discussed the establishment of South Papua Province and the mechanism for handing over the Kolepom conservation area from Papua Province to the Province of South Papua.

The legal draft for Kolepom island has been finalised to be signed by the Minister of Marine Affairs and Fisheries. This effort aims to legally establish an area of 356,337.9 Ha to conserve demersal fisheries (snapper and croaker), shrimp and sawfish habitat in the estuarine ecosystem. This area is expected to contribute up to 2,637,565 tonnes per year of fisheries resources in the Arafura Sea and provide direct livelihood and food security for 7,251 people in 11 villages located within the borders of Kolepom MPA.

To further strengthen MPA management effectiveness in the future, the capacity building process and financial mechanism will continue to support the MPA management body, which operates with access to the national budget. This outer island will also be supported by the local government budget, along with other financial schemes being developed by the private and public sector. Furthermore, to ensure success of the Kolepom MPA, local communities will need to be engaged in capacity-building activities and other initiatives to support their livelihoods, as the key beneficiaries of the MPA.

By Dwi Ariyoga Gautama and Johanis Valentino Fofied