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Banda Islands – Where Sea and Spices Changed the World
Located in the heart of the Coral Triangle, these rugged volcanic islands boast some of the most spectacular reef systems in the world.
With their underwater treasure troves of colorful corals and abundance of marine life, the Banda Islands are one of the last true marine wilderness areas in existence. They provide refuge for a huge variety of fish species, turtles and dolphins, and form part of the critical migration route for the mighty and majestic Blue Whale – the largest animal on Earth.
At CTC we are working together with our government partners and local Banda communities to preserve this crucial core of the Coral Triangle.
The Banda Islands MPA Network
Located in the remote Maluku area of Indonesia, the Banda archipelago is comprised of 11 small islands and one atoll. Only seven of these islands are inhabited, with a total of ~ 20,000 people living in 19 villages.
The islands rise up out of cavernous ocean trenches, up to 6km deep in places, making the surrounding waters rich in unique and spectacular marine life. Host to some of the most stunning reef environments to be found anywhere on the planet, the coastal waters are teeming with life – from hammerhead sharks, to the large, globally endangered Napolean Wrasse fish (Cheilinus undulates) reaching up to 2 meters in length and weighing 180 kilo’s, down to the tiny, colorful Mandarin Fish (Synchiropus splendidus) reaching only 6cm when fully mature. The islands are not only important because they are home to abundant marine life, they are also responsible for re-stocking areas far away with marine species, thanks to the ever present powerful currents that sweep through the region.
Napoleon-Wrasse-(Robert)
Napoleon Wrasse © Robert Delfs
The people living on the islands rely on these rich waters for their livelihoods and as a source of food. Fishing has been a mainstay of life for many generations, and the communities on the islands have strong bonds to the sea. But in recent years, like everywhere in the Coral Triangle, and indeed the world, fish catches have been decreasing. The damage that people around the world are exacting on the ocean, the over-extraction, the destructive fishing practices, the pollutants, they are all taking their toll – not only in the areas immediately affected, but on all marine life.
Back in 1977 the importance of these islands was already recognized, and part of the archipelago was designated as a Marine Protected Area (MPA) covering 25 km2. But with the increasing need to preserve and sustainably manage this critical resource decision was made in 2009 to expand protection of the area to create a network of MPA’s covering ~1,000 km2. Under the leadership of the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries (MMAF) this network of MPAs will aim to protect the most critical areas of the islands for biodiversity and food security.
Securing a future for the Banda Seas
Since 2012 we have been supporting the government, wider partners and the local Banda communities, to design and develop this resilient MPA network across the archipelago. With full time CTC staff stationed with the communities, we completed a range of surveys and assessments across the islands in 2013, with the help of academic and NGO partners.
Working through a bottom-up process, and incorporating traditional knowledge and wisdom from local fishers, in 2014 the Banda Sea MPA was newly formalized with a zoning system and management plan, and Ay MPA was gazetted under village agreement. These were swiftly followed in 2015 by the declaration of another MPA in the network – Hatta Island MPA. All the MPA’s have zoning plans to conserve and manage the marine environment and fisheries whilst respecting traditional fishing grounds and practices. Also through this work, the ‘Banda Sea Marine Conservation Team’ (BSMCT) was established, consisting of local fisher representatives, government staff, NGO’s academic institutions and the Indonesian Navy and Police. This locally instituted group are critical to the effective management of the MPAs over the long-term.
banda-mpa3
Fisher discussions in the Banda Islands © Marthen Welly
Moving forward, a fourth MPA is anticipated to be established in 2016, and there are hopes to undertake Cetacean surveys (of the whales and dolphins in the area). An economic valuation is also planned for 2016, to assess the ‘willingness to pay’ of travellers to the region, to support the local conservation efforts. We are also currently working with government and key stakeholders for proposing the Banda Islands as a UNESCO Sea Heritage Site.
How These Small Islands Changed The World!
Until the mid-19th century these small remote Banda Islands were the world’s only source of the spices nutmeg and mace. European nations scrambled to dominate the Islands through colonization, occupation and trading, in order to secure their access to the spices, which were at the time more highly valued than gold.
Many historical forts, houses and buildings still exist on the Islands as evidence of the era when they were known as the ‘spice islands’. One of these islands, Pulau Rhun, was at one time controlled by the British. This island was so rich in resources and strategic in location that it was highly desired by the opposing Dutch forces active in the region. At the same time the Dutch had been occupying an area of the America’s known as New Amsterdam (later to become New York). The British desired access to the America’s, and so a deal was struck. The British gave the Dutch the tiny, remote and obscure island of Rhun in the Banda archipelago, in exchange for the island of New York. This exchange paved the way for British colonization of North America, and the ripple effects of this effectively shaped the future political and economic paradigms we live in today.
2012

Scoping and evaluation undertaken across the Banda Islands, including manta tow marine monitoring and marine rapid surveys. Initial engagement and consultation with communities and assessment of network opportunities.

2013

Extensive community based socialization of MPA concept, sharing of scientific and traditional knowledge, establishment of community fora, and identification of opportunities, capacity needs and early planning.

2014

Banda sea MPA (pre-existing) zone design completed and new management plan formally approved. Ay Island MPA zone design completed and approved under village regulation, with community conservation team established.

2015

Regular recurring monitoring practices established through the archipelago, measuring reef health and socio-economic conditions. Hatta Island MPA zone design complete, approved under village regulation, and community conservation team established. A Community Learning Center established at Ay Island.

2012

Scoping and evaluation undertaken across the Banda Islands, including manta tow marine monitoring and marine rapid surveys. Initial engagement and consultation with communities and assessment of network opportunities.

2013

Extensive community based socialization of MPA concept, sharing of scientific and traditional knowledge, establishment of community fora, and identification of opportunities, capacity needs and early planning.

2014

Banda sea MPA (pre-existing) zone design completed and new management plan formally approved. Ay Island MPA zone design completed and approved under village regulation, with community conservation team established.

2015

Regular recurring monitoring practices established through the archipelago, measuring reef health and socio-economic conditions. Hatta Island MPA zone design complete, approved under village regulation, and community conservation team established. A Community Learning Center established at Ay Island.

Banda Islands as a Field Learning Site
Our work in the Banda Islands provides opportunities for visitors, volunteers, interns and researchers to learn about a range of topics related to MPA design, development and collaborative management. This includes topics such as:
  • Biophysical and socio-economic surveying and monitoring techniques
  • Public consultation mechanisms and community engagement
  • Locally Marine Manage Area (LMMA) design and development
  • Zoning system design and management plan document development
  • Charismatic species surveys and research (Cetaceans, sharks, fisheries)
  • Sustainable financing mechanisms and economic valuation methods
  • Integration between traditional knowledge and science in MPA design
  • Legal drafting for traditional laws related to natural resource management
banda-mapping
banda-mapping
In addition to this, lessons learned from the Banda MPA Network development are being utilized for our CTC academy and shared through our learning networks.
Coral Triangle Center