28 Oct Underwater and Socioeconomic Surveys in the Sula Islands Marine Protected Area
Last October, CTC marked its significant contribution to the final activities of the USAID SEA Project in the Sula Islands Marine Protected Area (MPA) by conducting biophysical and socioeconomic surveys. These week-long activities are expected to support local governments with data that will benefit the implementation of management and zoning plans in the Sula Islands MPA, as well as to transfer knowledge and skills from the USAID SEA Project to the Marine and Fisheries Agency of Sula Islands District.
The surveys started on October 21, 2020, in which all participating CTC and USAID SEA Project staff, together with some members of the community surveillance group (Pokmaswas), were divided into two groups. As for the biophysical survey, the underwater team successfully completed all diving logs and data collections at 11 target sites. These locations were spread throughout the waters of Sulabesi and Mangoli islands. Three sites were located in the tourism sub-zone, while three others were in the designated core zone, and the last five sites were in the sustainable fisheries zone.
While conducting the biophysical survey, the team employed a number of methods such as the Point Intercept Transect (PIT) to monitor and calculate the percentage of living hard corals and soft corals at a depth of 3-5 meters and 10 meters, and the Underwater Visual Census (UVC) to estimate the biomass, density and diversity of target and non-target fish. In general, the survey results indicate that coral reef ecosystems are in good condition. Another highlighted finding was the abundance of sea turtles, such as green turtles (Chelonia mydas) and hawksbill turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata).
In addition, the socioeconomic survey team successfully interviewed 100 respondents spread across nine target villages, namely Fatkauyon, Waigoiyofa, Bega and Waiboga (Sulabesi Island), as well as Paslal, Waitamela, Pelita Jaya, Waisakai and Waisum (Mangoli Island). This survey aims to identify any economic improvements of residents in fishing villages that might have been derived from the establishment of the Sula Islands MPA, which has been facilitated by CTC through the USAID SEA Project since mid-2016. The preliminary survey results show that the majority of respondents already owned valuable assets such as means of communication and transport, as well as farm land and livestock.
The perception monitoring part of this socioeconomic survey also captures positive feedback from most respondents regarding the understanding of marine conservation and its benefits for sustainable fisheries and tourism. Therefore, it appears that the socialization and public awareness-raising done by CTC in the Sula Islands has been successful. To maintain consistency of information dissemination about the MPA to a wider range of audiences in Sula, CTC together with the Pokmaswas of Fatkauyon Village have installed a large-size information board on the beach.
To date, CTC has finished tabulating and submitting all raw data from both surveys to the USAID SEA Project. This activity also marked the end of CTC’s assistance in establishing the Sula Islands MPA. It is hoped that the North Maluku Provincial Government, the Sula Islands District Government, local community members, and other related stakeholders can work closely to maintain the continuity of good management of the MPA. With that being said, the MPA could provide numerous benefits for the preservation of rich marine biodiversity and alternative income and livelihoods for local residents.