The sea provides livelihoods for more than 140,000 people living in Rote Ndao. However, in the past two years, marine resources have been threatened by irresponsible fishing activities and extreme weather related to climate change. To build resilience, improve fishing practices and mitigate the impacts of climate change, ATSEA-2 has been working with partners, officials and local communities to establish integrated coastal management in the region.

ATSEA-2 teamed up with the Reef Check Indonesia Foundation (YRCI) and the community of Oeseli Village to support the formulation of an agreement between the Oeseli Village Consultative Body and the Oeseli Village Apparatus. This agreement focuses on integrated coastal management (ICM) as a way to increase community resilience and help local people adapt to the impacts of global climate change. A Public consultation aimed to elicit inputs and suggestions to improve the agreement, which will serve as a guide for the Village Consultative Body and the Village Apparatus when they allocate activities and budgets for ICM. 

The public consultancy was held on 3 September 2022, at the Salom – Oeseli Church. A group of 35 participants attended this activity, comprising 13 women and 22 men. They included representatives of the Oeseli Village Apparatus and the Village Deliberation Agency (BPD), along with the subdistrict head of southwest Rote and the region’s police chief, the chief of military headquarters at the sub-district level, women’s representatives, community-based tourism group (POKDARWIS) and various community-based surveillance groups (POKMASWAS). Other attendees included the head of the legal department and staff from the fisheries department at the local research and development agency (BAPELITBANG), along with personnel from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and other community representatives. 

Image Credit: Mikael Leuape/UNDP Indonesia for the ATSEA-2 Project

During the public consultation, participants were actively engaged in the discussion. Mrs. Sofice Nenobano, one of the female representatives, raised concerns that there were people who caught fish using compressors and poison, which damaged seaweed and seagrass. These resources are vital to the livelihoods of village women, as they provide a primary source of income. With that in mind, she vociferously stated the importance of formulating strict regulations for the common good. 

In response to the suggestion from Mrs. Nenobano, participants at the meeting, together with the head of the legal department in the Rote Ndao regional government, agreed to include this as one of the key points in the policy article. This is now written into Article 6, Points 1 and 2, which ‘strictly prohibit the Oeseli village community and/or people outside the village from carrying out activities in the coastal area of Oeseli village that have the potential to cause resource damage, such as conducting fishing with toxic materials, dope, compressors, turtle nets and fish bombs.’ This agreement was then signed by the BPD and the Head of Oeseli Village – a momentous agreement witnessed by all those present. 

Rote Ndao has the potential to develop marine areas in an integrated manner. Various activities can support the community as an effort to overcome the impacts of climate change adaptation and illegal fishing; with ICM, coastal communities can use sustainable fisheries activities to build their resilience in the face of uncertainties such as climate change, while also combatting illegal fishing. This policy formalises the commitment of local governments to continue supporting the management of coastal areas in line with community aspirations. 

The action is also aligned with the objectives of the ATSEA-2 Project to support coastal livelihoods by strengthening coordination between policymakers and communities. ATSEA-2 will continue working to improve the quality of life of people living in the Arafura and Timor Seas region through a combination of restoration, conservation and sustainable management of marine-coastal ecosystems.

(By Mikael Leuape)