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Drew

Komodo National Park: Is it in trouble again?

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AP released a story about fish bombing in Komodo and the reported lack of enforcement in the park area by ranger patrols. The arguments have been going for years as many people have argued over how Komodo has been mismanaged by the Indonesians who took over management a few years ago. It is a shocking piece. For those who've dived the area since the 90s, you'll have seen the decline, then improvement, then rapid decline again. Is illegal fishing a part of life in Indonesia? Definitely! Was the park in recovery from the damage in the late 90s? Most definitely! Has it begun to show decline due to diver and illegal fishing damage? Unfortunately yes. Perhaps this public outcry will keep the park officials on their toes with more enforcement.

 

Komodo National Park under pressure from fishermen?

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Please help by posting comments in the various news reports of the same AP article to help encourage the Indonesian government to properly enforce patrols.

 

Here are a list of new stories from the original AP article:

 

http://tinyurl.com/7mmvtoj

 

Please help by posting comments to protect the area, especially in the Jakarta Post.

 

Here's a video of the damage that's been recently discovered.

 

[youtubehd]T8cDFKzgimY[/youtubehd]

 

The Indonesian authorities did react once the original reports of bombing were released in early March. However, the patrols need to be constant and vigilant, not merely a reaction to news. Let's keep them on their toes!

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Here's a very pertinent and full length reply to the Jakarta article:

 

Dear editor,

I worked for the TNC conservation program in Komodo a decade ago, and I have been back

for short holidays and assignments since that time. It still is a spectacular area, a real asset to

Indonesia. From my personal observations, I can confirm that the situation in Komodo has

deteriorated over the past years---Fishing appears to be completely unregulated, and as far as I

can see the Park authority hardly uses their speedboats and patrol vessels for regular

surveillance. Finding out what the Park rules are is a real challenge---It takes time and expert

knowledge on Park management systems. The text of official regulations is often unclear and

ambiguous. Any fisher would find it very difficult to get an answer to the question: “Am I

allowed to fish in Komodo, and, if so, where?”.

The title of your article, and the response of the Head of the Park suggests that the problem of

Komodo is “destruction of dive sites”. I disagree. The real problem is much larger, and the

stakes are much higher. This is not about a couple of dive sites. It is about sustainable fishing to

the benefit of local communities, and about sustainable, long-term income from responsible

tourism. It is a scientifically proven fact that fisheries benefit from areas that are protected from

fishing---Such “no-take” areas help to keep surrounding fishing grounds healthy. Many fishers

and fish traders I talked with actually agree with this idea. What is unacceptable to them,

however, is to see how other fishers may get away with breaking the rules. This is exactly the

situation one gets if rules are unclear and if there is hardly any visible surveillance.

The Head of the Park proudly states that they have arrested blast fishers over the past years,

and I applaud the efforts of the Park rangers who have been involved in this dangerous work---

I know some of them, and in my opinion they are among he most professional and dedicated

law enforcers I have ever worked with. Arresting a group of fishers who are armed with fish

bombs is not for the faint-hearted! Still, these dangerous encounters could have been avoided if

the Park authority would have kept their field presence high through regular patrols. Also, the

Park authority should work with local fishing communities to keep out fishers who are not

from the Komodo area, and the Park authority should make an effort to explain zoning

regulations in clear terms. This will create support for zoning regulations among local

communities, even if it means that some areas within this National Park will be closed to

fishing, and, yes, this will also result in the preservation of some of the world’s finest dive

sites.

Dr Peter J. Mous, Fisheries and Protected Area Specialist

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