Banda Islands as a Field Learning Site
The CTC team works with local partners to conduct surveys of reef ecosystems, as well as social surveys with local communities to gain a holistic understanding of the challenges the MPA network faces, and how to build an adaptively managed network that supports communities and marine life. Surveys completed in November 2019 across Ay and Rhun islands showed that communities are supportive of developing the MPA, and are already seeing the positive impact conservation is having in the area.
Simultaneous biophysical surveys showed that while overall hard coral cover has declined somewhat since 2012, many reefs previously damaged through blast fishing are showing signs of recovery, and coral diversity remains high. Data collected also showed that targeted fish species such as grouper, snapper, and giant trevally are in abundant supply, meaning fish stocks can support the artisanal fishing practices in the islands while maintaining healthy marine ecosystems.
As one of the top ocean predators, cetaceans, play an important role in the health of marine ecosystems. CTC works with partners to study their migration patterns and build the capacity of local MPA stakeholders to conduct rapid ecological assessments in the Banda and Ceram Seas. The MPA network and surrounding areas have been identified as critical habitat for cetaceans, including blue whales, spinner dolphins, pilot whales and the mysterious Cuvier’s beaked whale. Ensuring local stakeholders have the capacity to include incorporate cetacean conservation into MPA management plans is crucial to their protection, with over half of all cetacean species currently listed as either vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered.
CTC’s 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-managed marine area design and development, and charismatic species surveys and research. CTC also works to build up the integration of traditional knowledge with modern scientific techniques to create a resilient MPA network. In addition to this, lessons learned from the Banda Islands MPA Network development are being utilized for our CTC training programs, and shared through our learning networks.