Sula Islands, North Maluku Province
The little-known Sula Islands District is a piece of paradise that lies at the southwest of North Maluku Province. Established as a regency in 2003, the area consists of three inhabited islands and 21 mostly uninhabited, and unexplored, islands, and seas that are home to some of the richest marine biodiversity in eastern Indonesia.
The Sula Islands MPA
The Lease Islands MPA was declared via the MMAF Ministerial Decree No. 68 of 2020, signed on June 10, 2020, with a coverage of 120,723.88 hectares. The majority of communities in the Sula Islands rely heavily on marine resources for their livelihoods, with the waters surrounding the islands identified as high-value fishing grounds for pelagic fish and demersal fish such as tuna, skip jack, small mackerel and fusiliers found in large numbers. The local government, the USAID SEA Project, CTC, and community partners are scaling up to develop a multi-use MPA covering 120,723.88 hectares. This MPA contains a zoning system that supports sustainable fisheries and marine tourism, and protects threatened marine species and ecosystems. The USAID SEA Project and CTC will support the MPA expansion and establishment by providing scientific input, supporting the development of the zoning plan and MPA management plan, and providing training and environmental education to local communities and government officers.
The Sula Islands have also been identified as home to a dense population of sea turtles, as well as several nesting sites. The USAID SEA Project and CTC are now working to build up local capacity to survey, patrol and protect the sea turtles. These charming creatures, along with the white sandy beaches, healthy coral reefs, and abundant marine life underscores the potential for the Sula Islands to establish sustainable and eco-tourism alternative livelihoods for the islands’ inhabitants.
The USAID SEA Project and CTC, along with local and global partners, are also strengthening community-based sustainable marine conservation and eco-tourism projects, and advocating for positive behavioural change. Through the Pejuang Laut (Champions of the Sea) program, local leaders are being trained to promote peer-to-peer learning and community engagement to change local attitudes and build knowledge in conservation, and the benefit of long-term marine conservation goals for the community. By providing holistic, community-led projects, USAID and CTC aim to support both ecosystems and local communities to thrive.