Can eco-tourism help save the ocean? | The Economist

The Coral Triangle is one of the most biodiverse
places on the planet. More life is found in these waters than anywhere else in the world. But here in Indonesia,
destructive fishing practices and illegal poaching have been
threatening entire species. A pioneering business model devised by this couple, has not only
revitalized the local economy but is having an astonishing
impact on marine life. Can you imagine how different
the world could look if every private enterprise, if every tourism operation protected some small area of their backyard? Ahmad and his team of ocean rangers have received reports of turtle
poaching on a nearby island. They’re in the middle of
Misool marine protected area located in eastern Indonesia. It’s a 465 square mile reserve
where all fishing is banned. The success of the marine
protected area depends on the rangers stopping illegal
fishermen in their tracks. They work alongside the military police who have the power to make
arrests and seize vessels. The fate of any poachers they intercept will rest in the community’s hands. The rangers are really the unsung heroes of this marine protected area. They’re out there day
and night, rain or shine, doing interceptions
with illegal fishermen, getting themselves into
pretty dangerous situations in order to ensure that
this area is protected and all this can continue. Andrew and Marit Miners first came here in 2005 on a diving trip. They were shocked by what they found. When we arrived on Batbitim
Island in Misool, Raja Ampat, it’s hard to describe the
scene of carnage that we met. There was a remnants of
a shark finning camp. There were baby blacktip
reef sharks, finned, floating around dead in the water. It’s really a scene of
destruction and devastation. From that moment we decided we really had to make a stand and protect this area and stop those sharks getting slaughtered. They petitioned the local village leaders to lease them the land
and surrounding waters and in a bold plan to save this ecosystem, created a marine protected area that would be sustainably
funded by a luxury eco-resort. When we first started
building on the island, every night when we looked
out onto the horizon, it was full of lights from fishing boats. These people were illegally
decimating the reefs and the fishing stocks
of the local community. Andrew and Marit’s challenge was to provide an economic alternative for the hundreds of villagers who rely entirely on the ocean. What we did was create a whole new set of economic opportunities
for the local people. We employ over 200 people
and all those people are getting their income
from non-extractive work. Ahmad has been working as a ranger for two years, patrolling the reef and carrying out anti-poaching
missions like this. But like many people in this area, he hasn’t always been a conservationist. He’s gone from catching
fish to catching fishermen. This area is one of the most commonly
targeted by turtle poachers. Ahmad thinks he spotted something. This Beach is a popular nesting site for green and hawksbill turtles, both of which are endangered. The turtles are at their most vulnerable when nesting on the beach. Only one in 1,000 sea turtle hatchlings will survive to adulthood, so it’s vital that every single egg is protected. It’s not long until Ahmad spots some telltale signs of poaching. Scenes like this are all too common. As animal populations inside
the protected area continue to grow, so does the threat from poaching. While the threat from illegal fishermen is always present, over the last 12 years, the area has seen an
extraordinary transformation. The fish biomass has increased
in some areas by 600%, and there are now 25 times more sharks inside the reserve than just outside. Bearing in mind the incredible
explosion of fish biomass, this place has become
more and more attractive for those high-end tourists to visit. It’s not only been incredibly profitable for the marine environment,
the protection we’re doing, it’s become incredibly
profitable for the business. The guests are actively
choosing businesses that are supporting conservation
and social programs. Globally, coral reef dive tourism is valued at $36 billion annually. If Andrew and Marit’s business
model can be replicated, it could provide hope for
huge areas of our ocean. If you look at the economics of conservation versus extraction, it’s very clear that there
are incredible benefits to be reaped from protecting
natural resources. Sharks and mantas are worth so much more alive than they are dead. The business is only possible because of buy-in from the local
communities and government. At 465 square miles, Misool
marine protected area protects only a fraction
of Indonesia’s waters. But Andrew and Marit hope that the story of their success may encourage others. As they fine-tune their business model over the next few years, they
want to pitch to hotel chains and tourism operators to
start similar ventures. Our dream scenario is that Misool becomes the gold standard for private enterprise doing conservation. This is what we need in the future, we need private entrepreneurs
doing conservation work and protecting natural resources as the central asset of their business. Ahmad’s community has been fishing these waters for centuries. Thanks to the marine protected area, they’re now making more money than they ever did as fishermen, and their way of life has been safeguarded for generations to come.

Maurice Vega

48 Responses

  1. I love The Economist, their world relevant reporting. This is happening off Indonesian islands, correct?

  2. I think that this is great but doubtful that the market (luxury eco tourism) is big enough to save the ocean.

  3. Just to stop evil busynesses with China, and introduce more busynesses from richer countries for a good and cheap casual service would be attractive, while then, neither to conserve the nature resources nor to consume source of tourists will be resourceful. It's tropical Indonesia.

  4. I was really inspired by this. If we could see commitment from governments, communities, and individuals as much as seen here, than we could really give some hope to the rest of our worlds oceans. Maybe if organizations including Sea Legacy or intergovernmental bodies including UNEP could take up this idea in a broader scale, that dream could be achieved. Also, could we use satellites to guard more remote areas of the reef in conjunction with local rangers?

  5. The only thing with tourism is that you also have to get there and that is not really environmentally friendly. However, this might be a stepping stone to achieve a world where humankind can live again alongside the other inhabitants of this planet without taking advantage over them. Thanks for reporting on this!

  6. I heard they managed to stop blast fishing by dropping thousands of virgin mary statues on the reef. This wouldn't work in Indonesia though, perhaps they could drop waterproof Korans?

  7. Amazing, what they've done is great. Raja Ampat is really clean. Schedule your visit here the next time you come to Indonesia.

  8. We're having fish sanctuaries in pockets of 70% ocean covering this planet. Moratorium on fishing is not viable for poor fishermen, you've gotto stop these huge trawlers poaching fishes in international waters, on a industrial scale.

  9. I feel pity for the turtle.. but they are doing really great.. 🙂 I wish we all do something for our environment.. 🙂

  10. Has anyone ever lived in Indo and know the depth of the corruption. No matter what there paying the rangers, theres not much that could be done to change it unfortunately.

  11. No, no it won't. Failing to address problems created by human-made climate change is one of the great filters. We are doomed, its over. The only positive thing is that I was born in the 80s so I will still live my life through relatively normal weather patterns ,until I die .However people born now who will live past 2050 will have it bad, really,really bad.

  12. The way to do this is to give other people economic incentives that are non extractive, so good on the resort! It is also crazy to see just how fast the reserve has recovered in just 12 years, I mean 600% more fish biomass is unprecedented. Just goes to show how resilient mother nature truly can be and how the world could look if all humans lived in harmony with it.

  13. There is no such things like «eco tourism»… The Economist lied in a attempt to convince you that its ideology is not a threat to the environment.

  14. So white people come in, "fence up" the island, and locals cannot use the waters to eat and feed their families, which was something they ere doing for generations.

  15. screw those poachers jerks lets get rid of them all because this pisses me off they just murder those animals we need to stop them

  16. as someone who was born in Indonesia, I feel sad that it has to be foreginers who are fixing our issues.

  17. This is amazing – the only issue i have is that the resort is only attainable to "luxury" customers, but in this time and age it is the younger crowd whom travels more, and is in touch with social media and word of mouth marketing and are very sustainable minded. I think it would be much more successful if accessing the eco-resorts globally was affordable to more social classes.

  18. can underwater drones be used?? to capture, and possibly mark the pouching vessel with gps?? just wonder?

  19. মহান আল্লাহর অপার সৌন্দর্য। আলহামদুলিল্লাহ।

  20. Thats what I try to explain uncle Duterte…no masstourism from China…but he always has ear pain…🙄🤔😂🤣😂🤣🤑🤑 Masstourism is destroying the Nations, the peoples envirement, thenature, ocean…but wallet of travel companiesand condo-comlexes for rich chinese Tourists, are making big money and earth makes buuuf!💀🙈🙉🙊no to Duterte! No to masstourism! No to impunity coming from Davao! No to DNs! No to diszipineing the locals! No to killing …drug suspect!!!!No to too big to be punished! No to international working Drug businessman, who are floating all countries with cheap drugs! No to tax havens! No to HSBC, washing dirty money clean! No to super Rich supporting Dudirtyyyy! No to Marcos supporting Dudirtyyyy!
    No to Chinese supporting Dudurtyyyy!🤑🤑🤑🤑🤑☠️☠️

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