This is a story about the women and men working tirelessly behind-the-scenes at Misool Foundation to protect the world’s richest reefs in the heart of the Coral Triangle.
What is the Misool Marine Reserve?
The Misool Marine Reserve is a 300,000-acre Marine Protected Area in the heart of marine biodiversity in Raja Ampat, Indonesia. The private reserve, which is nearly twice the size of Singapore, was established in 2005 around the private island resort of Misool. The reserve is now managed by Misool Foundation, the resort’s own registered charity.
“There is greater biodiversity — that is to say, a larger number and greater diversity of fish, coral, and mollusks — on these reefs than anywhere on earth. A single football field-sized patch of Misool’s reefs has nearly five times the number of coral species as the entire Caribbean Sea.” –
Dr. Mark Erdmann, marine biologist, coral reef ecologist, and Vice President of Conservation International’s Asia-Pacific marine programs.
The Reserve is comprised of two distinct No-Take Zones (NTZs). In 2005, local landowners signed a lease agreement with the founders of the private island resort Misool. Since then, all extractive practices within this area are prohibited: no fishing, no collecting turtle eggs, no reef bombing, no cyanide fishing, no netting, and no shark finning. The local landowners’ villages are located just outside the Misool Marine Reserve, resulting in improved catch closer to home for coastal communities.
Misool Ranger Patrol – A Short History
The lease agreement had two intentions; to immediately stop destructive fishing and to establish a base camp and funding vehicle for the conservation work that urgently needed to be done. This base camp evolved into a private island resort called Misool, built exclusively from reclaimed wood.
While building the resort, after long days of construction work, the renegade conservationists would pile into a small plastic dinghy and chase down illegal Javanese long-liners, confiscating their gear and pelting their boat with pebbles. The construction team, largely drawn from local villages, shared the group’s unwillingness to accept illegal fishing in this area. A formal Misool Ranger Patrol was soon established.
Fast forward 12 years and Ranger Patrol has grown to a 15-strong, locally-staffed ranger team with cooperation of the Marine Police, five dedicated patrol boats, four satellite Ranger Stations, and surveillance support from radar and UAV technology.
A Ranger’s job can vary from routine observation patrols to high-adrenaline interactions with gill-net fishers (watch the video below to see the interaction captured). When they’re not on patrol, the Rangers also clean beaches, monitor turtle nesting spots, engage in coral reef restoration projects, and function as proud conservation ambassadors in their communities.
Pak Abdul Rajak Tamher joined the team in 2006 and was one of Misool’s first employees. “Back then,” Pak Rajak says, “the area was crowded with illegal activities such as bombings, shark fishing and collecting turtle eggs. Things have changed a lot since then.”
Becoming a Ranger is a great source of pride amongst the team. Rajak’s colleague Mato elaborates, “Being a Ranger means that I have an important role to protect the Marine Reserve. As we protect this area it becomes a safe haven for fish to breed and then spillover outside of the reserve to provide food for the surrounding villages.”
Rajak agrees: “For me, to be able to save the region from the threat of damage to both the sea and land, it is a moral responsibility. I am not only a village ranger, but a native son of Misool.”
In Part II, we discuss the fight for the future and tips to protect the Patrol.
by Jo Marlow, Blue Ocean contributor, photo credits by Shawn Heinrichs
About the Authors
Marit Miners, Co-Founder of Misool and Misool Foundation, was born in Sweden and educated in the USA. In 2000, Marit left behind the ancient mummies that she studied to move to Asia and dive, dive, dive. And the ocean is grateful that she did. Marit, her husband Andrew, and their band of maverick conservationists have challenged the rules of marine conservation and proved that ordinary people can indeed change the world.
Jo Marlow, Fundraising & Communications Manager of Misool Foundation, is a dive instructor, conservationist, and mermaid, entangled in a complex love affair with the ocean. Jo started working in conservation in the Komodo National Park in Indonesia and now works with her heroes at Misool. She strongly believes that change starts with one person, and that if you’re ruffling feathers and starting conversations, then you must be doing something right.
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