Earth Advocates -


Assessment by Earth Advocates

July 23 - August 4 2000,
Sponsored by Michael Aw (Ocean Environment)

The expedition took place off the coast of East Kalimantan on the Baruna Adventurer, a live aboard dive boat chartered from Bali, Indonesia. Participants included Dive enthusiasts, top Underwater Photographers and Cameramen as well as Researches. Michael Aw invited 'Earth Advocates' representative Robin Marinos with the purpose of making a general assessment of the reef conditions, including fish count of various species, to record the unique attributes of various remote areas and specifically, record Sea Turtle distribution within the areas being visited. This assessment coincides with the broad agenda of Earth Advocates to discover and seek long term protection of natural ecosystems and the species within.

The expedition members met in Balikpapan July 22nd, 2000. The following day, all equipment was loaded onto the Baruna Adventurer before the team departed from Balikpapan Harbor, the heart of the Indonesia's Oil industry. An area, where the waters are visibly scarred and polluted by the effects of the Oil Industry. The general assessment of this expedition will be discussed in accordance to movement and the relevant issues.

The first destination was North of the Makassar Strait to Birah-birahan , from that point on the expedition moved northwards toward the Berau area, stopping to dive at locations around 18 remote islands and submerged reefs. The main focal areas were dive locations within the Berau Area, diving an average of 3-4 times a day for 10 days. It was up to the participants own judgment as to how many dives they made at particular sites within the framework of the expedition. Earth Advocates representative made 25 dives and 3 snorkel trips, spending up to 3 hours a day in the water, exploring depths down to 40 meters, with the average depth approximately 12 meters. Earth Advocates will generally review its observations and findings in this report concerning the Makassar Strait Expedition.

Photographer, Joerg Malke, getting close-ups of Cuttle-fish during the Expedition

General Reef Conditions

Many observations of reef conditions and existing genera were made during dives, leading to certain assessments, often after consultation with other members of the expedition. The observations and assessments will be reviewed in the order of relevance to the particular subject matter(s) being discussed within this report. This fact finding expedition purposely targeted various unprotected remote reef areas to explore their general conditions due to their relative importance to the healthy survival of the Indonesian Archipelago. The following general observation have been made to be followed by the main points and conclusions.

Non protected remote islands and areas including submerged reefs such as Karang Lintang, located southeast of the Berau area approximately North 1º59', East 118º52', was extensively damaged especially in the shallower parts of the reef. We also found large alleys of destroyed reef following down to the lowest levels. There was extensive evidence of dynamite destruction, bubu trap fishing and other destructive methods of fishing. Due to massive reef destruction, there exists an obvious lack of fish species, especially targeted larger fish, as Shark, Napoleon Wrasse, and Grouper, plus the smaller colorful ornamental fish.

The sight seen much to often in the Indonesian Archipelago, systematic destruction of targeted species.

Other uninhabited and unprotected areas such as the northwest side of the Island Birah-birahan, also showed massive damage resulting from destructive fishing methods. Surprisingly, on the southeastern side, the main reef as well as the attached submerged reef mounds had an abundance of sea life and generally undamaged soft and hard corals. In fact, one of the most impressive dive sites of the whole trip was an area that had obviously not been discovered and pillaged by fishermen and the live fish trade. (I recommend that the government protect these reefs in addition to the reefs of Derawan, which are further north within the Berau area).

In the case of Tanjung Labuanbini along the coast eastward from Teluk Sangkuriang (the bay of Sangkuriang), we found a high proportion of living soft corals compared to hard corals. Visibility was very poor, at times down to less than 3m. The amount of silt carried by the current was very high. We believe that silt runoff from the mainland's waterways had displaced itself among susceptible hard corals, whereas soft corals easily moved by the strong current were surviving the silt build up thus able to breath. This reef was marred with deficiencies as the lack of certain species of fish, similarly depleted from other reefs. Namely those species specifically targeted for the 'Live Fish Trade'.

On the second day we reached the borderline area of Berau, the Matah Island region, and found a navy coast guard boat moored there. We later established that this is one of the particular areas where the Navy monitor ship movements and irregular activities such as pirating and illegal fishing practices. We consider this a Partially protected area due to this fact that the Navy's presence reduces the chances of illegal and destructive fishing occurring despite not having the Marine Park status. This seemed to reflect on the general condition here. We found the coral to be in relatively good condition, although there were some spots of damage. Some of the damage found was patches of bleached skeleton coral, a typical sign of Cyanide fishing. We also noticed areas where large pieces of coral had been torn out. Our overall impression was that this area, containing a high variety and abundance of soft and hard corals, if protected could sustain a balanced environment. The cancerous damaged areas could also recover, time allowing.

A Cuttlefish hovering over an area of totally damaged Hard Coral, the situation witnessed much to often in remote areas!

Only a few kilometers north-east of Matah, around Bilang-bilangan Island we found discouraging evidences that imply the need for immediate reef protection. The initial observation made was that there were two medium sized fishing boats. Later we discovered that they were running small boats with attached machinery known as Hookah compressors. We found aboard the mother boat 10 to 20 sedated Brown Spotted Groupers weighing between 4-10 kg. Although it was stated by the captain that they were using nets, there were none visible, only small boats with compressors, hoses and canisters.
As we approached the two boats, one of them, conveniently covered, suspiciously moved away. We believe that they were avoiding our possible detection and discovery of some sort of evidence of illegal fishing practices.

This contradiction to the Matah situation demonstrated that without full protection of any area, one could expect that these damaging and illegal fishing practices would persist, especially if the Navy is not present. Therefore whatever assessments made now about the reef conditions, one would find less favorable conditions with time unless the appropriate law enforcement procedures were undertaken.

The comparison further established that the reef of Bilang-bilangan, had increased signs of damage. We found similar types of species, however less in numbers. The only exception was a high number of turtles homing and roaming in the area.
This evidently a turtle breeding ground, leading to the assumption and suspicion that the covered boat we had spotted earlier was likely to be carrying illegally captured turtles. This boat similar to other Turtle transporting boats used by Turtle dealers of the renown Tanjung, Bali Sea Turtle Slaughter Grounds.

Moving further north to Sambit Island and the surrounding submerged reefs , we found a large variety of hard and soft corals, fish species and other diverse sea life forms. Unfortunately we also noticed massive damage and erosion, evidence of all forms of damaging fishing methods, from Cyanide fishing, dynamite fishing to the dragging of bubu traps along coral reefs. There was also what seemed to be anchor damage and a lack of large fish (those that exceed 60 cm and more), which altogether verifies the use of such fishing methods. However, this reef area would have a chance for recovery from irreparable damage if correct measures were taken.

Derawan Area - Protected or not?

We arrived to the main inhabited island of Derawan, 28 July 2000, the center point from where diving and exploration expeditions to the surrounding reefs and islands are initiated, normally from the Derawan dive resort. Due to the conservation efforts of certain individuals and groups, Derawan enjoys a very unique situation. Currently this total area has not been granted full National Marine Park status, yet specific areas do enjoy protective status. At the same time, full protection status has been given to Sea Turtles in the Berau area, this primarily due to the community's reliance on sea turtle eggs as a major food source.

Efforts for the last five years by the founder of the Derawan dive resort, Nawawi Chandra, have decreased the amount of illegal and damaging fishing methods around this area. Years of vigorous negotiations and dealings finally lead to a hard fought agreement between the local government, fisheries, navy, and resorts, which have developed protective measures as resource zoning, areas where fishing is or is not allowed. Attempts have also been made to educate known dynamite fishermen to alternative ways of securing a livelihood such as Sea Cucumber and Seaweed farming.

A former Dynamite fisherman, now farming Sea Cucumber

Sea Cucumber and Seaweed farming: alternative ways of living without damaging the Coral Reefs

Further steps have been taken to give Marine Park status to particular areas within Berau as the island of Sangalaki enjoys, prohibiting any sort of fishing within a specified area. These conservation efforts toward progress leave no protection for the surrounding areas, thus effecting the whole area, including that area intended to protect. One could argue here, that the unique attributes of each individual island area, being only a part of the greater picture, can only survive as it is if the other areas survive as they are, all the parts being interdependent.

One can easily evidence the bio-diversity of the area and its fish life by simply diving off the Derawan Resort Pier. Here one can sight some of the most exciting and desired specimens, all together and one after the other on any given day when diving. This pier is one of the protected zones mentioned above, even though the fishing village of Derawan is located directly next to the resort. The vulnerability of this place due to the temptation of the fishermen implies in itself the need of a steadfast protective status for the whole area.

Immediately surrounding Derawan Island there exists at least nine distinct diving locations. We found many of these locations to be extensively damaged, as it seems that population density and the lack of a concrete Marine Park mandate, as well as the lack of education and law enforcement had allowed for the dynamite and Cyanide fishermen to pillage these areas, until recent zoning agreements and fishing regulations were put in place.
Despite past destruction, some sites directly around the Derawan had unique and impressive features. For instance, the Coral garden dive site where the flats and slopes were amazingly colorful and diverse, full of the most beautiful sea flora and fauna, inhabited by beautiful small fish life. However the coral fringe and walls had been totally destroyed and there existed practically no larger fish in the area; clear indications of destructive dynamite and bubu trap fishing.

Not far from the Snapper point/Lighthouse dive area we found a tremendous amount of sea turtles including a turtle that may have been 150-200 years old.
We also sighted a large array of colorful Giant clams; our first sighting of so many living giant clams in one area. A valued asset to the Archipelagos reefs for the reproduction of the Giant Clams and their distinct properties related to feeding and cleaning reef areas. Important to preserve since they have been pillaged and depleted to extinction from many areas of Indonesia's and the worlds seas.

The Out Laying Islands of Derawan

Each of the distinct islands dived, claim independent and spectacular ecosystems, homing special fish and coral life which qualify the Berau area as the most exciting dive area ever experienced by an Earth Advocate member.

Maratua was a most fascinating experience. After dropping to 25 meters depth along the reef wall, we were swept along beautiful hard and soft coral, reef caves, passing numerous large fish, such as Parrot Bump heads, Giant Trevallies, Clown Triggers, Snappers, various Sweet Lips, White Tip Sharks, and eventually and finally sighting the White Spotted Eagle Rays. We arrived to the mouth of the channel leading into Maratua bay, down approximately 20m, and encountered a group of Great Barracuda steadily compromising the powerful current. We clung to sea reed avoiding being sucked into the channel. We were surprised by the sudden appearance of a school of sixty to a hundred Yellow Fin Barracuda which proceeded to do what seemed to be a circular ritual, swirling round and round directly at the mouth of the channel.
As soon as we fought our way out of the channel mouth, we were swept back along the reef wall and to our amazement, from nowhere, a train of hundreds of 5 to 6 foot Chevron Barracuda passed by effortlessly against the current, barely touching our skin. As if another wall, great, shiny and gray, suddenly materialized on our left side and passed like a freight train. Undisturbed by our presence, the wall of Barracudas passed by, leaving an impression most professional divers can only dream of.

Kakaban a few kilometers southwest also has its spectacular and unique attributes. An island that is mostly lake in which an amazing secluded sub ecosystem evolves. Where one can float or swim around thousands, possibly millions of non stinging Jelly Fish, unique fish and other specialized life forms. This lake surrounded by an uninhabited jungle perimeter. Outside the jungle perimeter of the island the reef shelf's offer spectacular dive experiences along its coral slopes and steep walls. When diving in the dangerously strong current from Tuna Point to Barracuda Point, one may encounter impressive groups of large pelagic fish moving along the coastline.
Working around Barracuda point, suddenly you find yourself in absolutely still waters, where down the steep reef wall you may sight coral reef dwelling fish species, including some very large Grouper and Napoleon Wrasse, which are currently on the border of extinction. We also noticed a considerable amount of damage here, which appeared to be primarily from dynamite fishing. However, due to this areas bio-diversity and geographic position it seemed that recovery might be achieved if the area is protected.

Sangalaki, southwest of Kakaban and southeast of Derawan, is the internationally renowned island in this region due to its beauty, bio-diversity and in particular its Manta Ray and Sea Turtle populations. This area offers more than enough reasons for protecting the surrounding areas. We found that the general conditions of the reefs were good to excellent; many mound formations of hard and soft corals surrounded by sand, and full of sea life. In both our visits here we sighted turtles breeding. There was hardly any evidence of human fishing damage, especially when compared to other areas. Diving here was very comfortable and absolutely fulfilling, at times one felt as if living in a fantasy world. To this we must give some credit to the monitoring activities of the Borneo Divers Resort located on Sangalaki.

Sea Turtle Distribution

In this expedition, conclusions were derived from the observation of sea turtle distribution, their estimated ages and sizes and populations in and around breeding areas.
Of the six major turtle species found in the Indonesian archipelago, up to 90% of our sightings were Green Turtles (Chelonia mydas) from 50 cm up to 150 cm size carapace. Practically in every dive site Green Turtles were sighted. The other 10% were Hawksbill Turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata) and all the sightings of these were of young ones, with the carapace size of no more than 60 cm. We believe that the other species either do not breed in the area or have been made so extinct that we did not have the opportunity to sight even one. We did however have the opportunity to see naturally hatched turtles swimming in the slipstream, passing our boat during a night dive around Sangalaki.

We realize that due to the fact that the Berau area strictly enforces sea turtle protection laws in certain areas, the distribution and population was quite high. We also found that other less protected areas such as Bilang-bilangan, also harbored a large population. It is believed that such areas are breeding and (or) feeding grounds, and migrating zones of specific Sea Turtles species. Turtles are especially vulnerable in such unprotected areas, although they are often also home to the protected areas of Berau.
Due to the on-going turtle trade and existence of the Sea Turtle slaughtering grounds specifically in Tanjung, Bali and other such operations, when turtles are moving outside of the protected area they become more susceptible. Therefore broad based protection is vital considering the long term interest of the Berau population to save the turtles in the trade-off for consuming turtle eggs. Due to special programs introduced by groups such as the Derawan Dive Resort and Borneo Divers, up to 20% of turtle eggs are kept for hatching to sustain the existence of the species.

The Derawan Dive Resort in conjunction with Ocean Environment started a turtle egg hatching and releasing program, which allows for their protected hatching. As mentioned above, in the agreement between the local communities, government and local conservationists, it was agreed that approximately 80% of the eggs would be for human consumption, as they have been for many years in this area, and 20% for releasing. Since the program started in 1994 until 1999, out of 32,238 eggs that were buried, 18,775 survived the 6 months before being released. If current official estimations by turtle specialists were correct, it would mean approximately 200 of those turtles would survive to maturity (approximately 25 years). However, this does not take into consideration the increasing human dangers that contribute to the declining sea turtle population.

Newly Hatched Green Sea Turtles in Derawan Dive Resort

Earth Advocates believe the estimated mature survival rate regarding the Derawan program is much too low to guarantee the healthy survival of the species. We support a program that encourages chicken farming and the increased use of chicken eggs within the daily diet, eventually substituting Sea Turtle eggs, which would be released to increase their chances of survival past maturity.
To guarantee the continuing supply of eggs, the Berau area administration has declared a total ban of poaching, killing and (or) fishing of turtles; a six year sentence to anyone caught trading or killing turtles. As well as the turtle hatching and releasing program, there is an active tagging program to keep track of turtle behavior, distribution and age.

These programs and corresponding regulatory conditions are well suited to the area even though we believe that a larger proportion of eggs should be hatched and released. Without an official National Marine Park status from the government, and decisive and proportionate law enforcement measures taken for the recommended area of Berau, the future survival of Sea Turtles are in danger here, as throughout the archipelago. Note: The Turtle Trade network has ruthlessly spread throughout the Archipelago, including quasi marine protected areas reflecting the lack of clear and decisive law enforcement.

Because we found certain populations of turtles breeding on other remote islands outside of the Berau region, and realizing that turtles tend to migrate, it is essential that other islands such as Matah and Bilang-bilangan should also be included in this protected region.

Discovery of New Coral

The Berau reefs have already been identified as harboring unique species of coral. The recent discovery of Acropora derawanensis by Carden Wallace in 1995, around Karang Tababinga in the Derawan area, is an example of this. We believe that there are so many undiscovered species still to be found and that this should enhance the need for research projects. The infrastructure is currently being developed by tour operators, allowing more and more tourists, scientists and researchers to enjoy and discover its natural treasures.

The fact that this general area is so sparsely populated by humans , may be the major asset in the survival of the natural habitat for most species here. This in turn would set one criteria concerning National Parks and population density. The area can provide for basic needs and survival of humans without straining the natural resources within. We believe, as the mandates of most Natural Parks, that immigration and population control could easily be established within the boundaries of this area.


This report as well as reports by other specialists gives overwhelming evidence that this Berau area qualifies as and needs be granted the status of a Protected Marine Park. It requires the permanent official protection from all forms of commercialization and industry other than eco-tourism. This specifically means no forms of commercial fishing, including any local destructive or live species trading, as well as commercial exploration and exploitation of minerals and such.

Currently there exists partial protection in specific areas within the Berau island group. We believe it is essential that the whole area from the southern border of Berau within a quadrant including the open coastal areas, from Coordinates approximately North 1º to 3º, and East 117º to 119º.50' be granted National Park status. This area would include all the islands and reefs as well as the submerged reefs within the area, as it seems that there is a very high amount of specific species living and roaming around these parts. Between islands are submerged reefs that would otherwise not be protected, thus causing cancerous holes in the reef body.
Locations outside this area, such as around Birah-birahan Island and Tanjung Labuanbini should be independently protected to allow for the dynamic breeding and spreading of essential nutrients and species throughout the Makassar Strait.

Two km from Derawan, stilted houses with holding pens give evidence of the past existence of a Live Fish trade which may start up again if there is no Marine Park status granted.

It could trigger a chain reaction in this environment. Firstly, potassium cyanide would be used to stun and catch the large fish such as the Napoleon Wrasse and the Brown Spotted Grouper. Lobsters, small ornamental fish and other reef dwellers would be in danger and the surrounding reef would be poisoned, plus the undiscovered or endangered species may never survive the resulting imbalance. The live turtle demand may tempt the live fish dealers to take turtles. This in fact would reduce or wipe out the supply of the much depended upon turtle eggs. The ruthless fishing methods of the live fish traders have accounted for a large proportion of the destruction that threaten the existence of the world's reefs. Dynamite (explosive) fishing has been and could also be used to stun and catch fish, killing unintended others and destroying coral at the same time. This trade would create massive environmental damage to various unique areas and destroy the sustainable harmony of the local human population with the sea life that surround and provide them with their basic food source. It would also effectively wipe out all the reasons for tourists and divers to come to this area.

More than 1500 participants including members of NOAA (Nation Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), World Bank, and Scientists from all over the world attended the 9th Coral Reef Symposium, from October 23rd to 27th on Bali Indonesia. It ended with an overall consensus that the detrimental effects of illegal and damaging fishing practices within the archipelago has continued to have effects and severely damaged approximately 70% of the coral reefs. These damaging methods include industrial fishing (kilometers of trawl nets), dynamite and potassium cyanide fishing, and the use of tiger nets (which catch juvenile fish as well as mature ones), and so forth.
If current fishing practices continue they may destroy the uniqueness of the Berau area, one of Indonesia's most valuable marine breeding grounds.

Attempt to re-balance the Makassar Strait;
The Necessity for Protection from Pillaging

The areas recommended for protection are vital for the reproduction of microorganisms, coral and fish life, as well as the distribution and feeding of other areas with nutrients, plankton and genera.
Southeastern Kalimantan is one of Indonesia's designated oil exploration areas. There is an abundance of oil residue and sludge expelled to the sea due to the exploration and extraction methods. This, notwithstanding the pollution from general population waste, as well as silt and erosion runoff from mining and deforestation, has resulted in a loss of so much of its natural sensitive species and microorganisms, which make an essential part of the survival of a balanced marine ecosystem. Through all these factors many organisms and elements have been either detrimentally affected or totally eliminated from the normal ecological process in this area.
North from Balikpapan, around Bontang, is the headquarters of the natural gas exploration for Indonesia. Further north, the ocean life around Brunei and Sabah are also affected by the oil industry.

Realizing the fact that oil and natural gas are very important commodities to the Indonesian economy one cannot stop the activity. However, we believe that the government should allow for a trade-off to counterbalance the negative effect of the southern portion of Makassar Strait. Therefore the northern portion needs to be highly protected from exploitation or fishing to avoid furthering the cancerous imbalance.

The flow of currents drives nutrients and microorganisms up and down the strait. To assure that the ecosystem is not destroyed by the imbalance is to put a total protective zone in an area that provides these vital life forms and nourishment to the deficient areas.

A photo example taken in the Berau area of how important it would be to protect this area to help spread and nourish other areas.

Essentially, after the assessment of the whole situation as it stands, we conclude that there is a time when natural parity must be met. There is far too much pillage and destruction going on all over the Indonesian waters, and in many cases the damage has been near irreparable. Studies have shown that if we let nature take its course, it will provide us with that which is needed to sustain life on earth. In this particular case, due to the points given above, which include the exploitation of the southern portion of the Makassar Strait and the extreme northern portion of Borneo, expedient protection of the recommended area is paramount to acquiring some sort of balance in the Makassar Strait, and that would mean absolute National Park status to include all law enforcement measures.

Finally, this area provides some of the most spectacular and unique underwater activity and diverse sea life, some species still un-identified, that it would be far more valuable to Indonesia's future to allow the existence of a self sustaining ecosystem. It could be a model for tourism as well as conservation, and would be far more valuable in the long run, bringing in tourism, marine biologists and researchers. This area should be left as the core that radiates life and feeds the waters of Indonesia, while existing as a paradise.

Members of the Makassar Straits Expedition in Derawan Resort

Robin Marinos, Earth Advocates

E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

For Reference and information concerning the Expedition, contact:
E-mail, Michael Aw, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

For Specific Information concerning the Berau Area and current relative information to this report contact:
E-mail, Nawawi Chandra, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Other related Sea Turtle news from 2000

Creating an Integrated North Minahasa protected Area

Manado, May 20, 2006

Proposal submitted by Earth Advocates to the honorable Governor of North Sulawesi, Drs. Sinjo Harry Sarundajang, regarding the Sustainable Use of North Sulawesis Natural Treasures

Move to create an Integrated North Minahasa protected Area

Recent reports from various experts have clearly stated and demonstrated that the North Minahasa coastline as well as the island group above, Bangka, Gangga and Talisei, contain an extraordinarily high amount of rare and exotic marine species from tiny, cryptic fishes to massive coral colonies, including some of the most sought-after marine species on earth. In recent times, the amount of dive tourism in this particular area has increased tremendously, with extraordinarily high praise from visitors – although it is not even suggested in conventional dive guides yet. However, in recent months, several expeditions have been undertaken into this area, resulting in a range of publications in dive magazines rating this area equal to the world-renowned sites of Bunaken and Lembeh, with far less human pollution.

Spectacular sighting of a Florescent Yellow Angler(Frog) fish paired with a small Hairy Frog Fish in the North Minahasa waters of North Sulawesi, photographed by Robin Marinos May 2006.

However, due to the fact that it is not a Marine Protected Area, this natural gem is under constant threat of systematic destruction and pillage. If this continues, the disappointment throughout the diving world will be overwhelming. There will be a tremendous loss for the economic growth of a very secure and sustainable sector of the North Minahasa economy, namely positive and clean tourism.

Due to the fact that this area is sparsely populated and is far less polluted than the existing Bunaken National Park area, it would be imperative to move for a declaration of this area, marine and terrestrial, as a protected area as soon as possible. Not to forget, after the Berau Area in East Kalimantan, this would be only the second area in Indonesia to be declared as such by a regional government. The initiator of such a program would surely be remembered for decades to come as a true leader in preserving this region.

The proposed area includes a marine and a terrestrial portion. In order to effectively preserve this area, the proposed boundaries of the protected zone would begin from the coast at Tanjung Tarabitan (approximately 1°45’ N / 124°88’ E) in the west, running north to 1°55’ N / 125°05’ E, then across to 1°55’ N / 125°13’ E, from there south to 1°46’ N / 125°13’ E and back to the coast at 1°36’ N / 125°09’ E, close to the coastal boundary of Minahasa Utara to Bitung regency.

In order to prevent catastrophic flood events like the ones of February 2006, we propose the inclusion of a buffer zone along the coast, whose uses would be restricted to non-destructive and sustainable agricultural and permissible eco-tourist operation, which would require approval of the regional and state government. To be effective, this buffer zone should include all land up to a sufficient distance from the coastal boundary to be further determined by sound scientific data.

We believe that, with the announcement of such a plan, tourism and investment in the area could as much as double within a few years. An initiative such as this would be received very positively throughout the world, not to mention Indonesia as well, and it may provide for a safe breeding ground for fish, thus sustaining fish stocks for coming generations.

Implemented quickly, this proposal would complement the ongoing process by UNESCO of designating this area as a World Heritage Marine Site, emphasizing your recognition of this area as being a marine treasure.

It has come to our attention that there currently is a major ongoing conflict concerning the discovery and extraction of gold within the Minahasa Utara area. Our primary position, which is supported by the majority of the interest groups and individuals we have gathered information from, is quiet clear on this issue. If it were possible to ban or stop all mining activities altogether, we would be in favor! This would include the irresponsible local mining currently operating in the Talawaan area, which has poisoned the local wells and caused local residents to be very cautious about consuming water from their wells in any way. Mercury has been shown to cause major health problems for humans as well as the wider ecosystem and bioaccumulates in the environment.

However, if compromises must be made to allow mining to proceed, we would definitely advise to pursue a more responsible form of mining than that being displayed in the Talawaan area, with one major condition: The detoxified tailings from the mining operation have to be deposited in the safest available location, taking into consideration the whole ecosphere in this particular area. Thus, any discharge into the aquatic environment, whether through aquifiers or by direct dumping by Submarine Tailings Disposal, would be totally unacceptable.

If STD were the only option we would suggest, for the good of your area, to disallow and possibly ban it due to the obvious threat to the precious environment of North Sulawesi and the resulting economic losses in the tourism and fishing sectors.

The land-based disposal option was discussed with mining officials at the site on May 19th 2006 and is apparently favored by the company. However, we believe that for this option, there would have to be a substantial investment on a safe casing for the disposal area, not simply disposing of the waste on permeable soils were seepage is possible. If done irresponsibly and without external monitoring by independent technical specialists, this could be a disaster for North Minahasa.

Seeing that this location is between two extremely valuable protection areas, Bunaken National Park and Tangkoko/Dua Saudara Reserve, both home to a host of very unique flora and fauna, any mining operation in this area would be disastrous for North Sulawesi and will have direct repercussions for the economic and ecologic future of the region. Furthermore, we would advise the government to aggressively confront and abolish the illegal mining currently going on in the area so that it does not spread over the rest of North Sulawesi. This minor form of mining may be more damaging to the environment and human health than large-scale mining operations, which can at least be monitored and thus be made more accountable.

Our recommendation to you is to create an integrated North Minahasa Protected Area and to push for a sustainable and non-damaging use of the region that is acceptable to the larger majority of stakeholders, not just a few.

Further suggestions:

Restrict further destruction of natural coastal areas

In light of the recent announcement of making Manado the World Tourism City 2010, we suggest to discontinue destroying the coastal areas of Manado Bay. Although this has so far provided for multiple shopping areas, it is impairing the once-renowned sunset view of the marine national park and the sea. This practice continues to smother valuable coral reef area within the bay with sediments. In the absence of an effective sewage system, the positioning of an intensively used consumer complex right next to the sea will in fact work counterproductive to the goal of attracting healthy, good tourism to the Manado area. We would like to remind you that Manado is praised internationally for its natural treasures and not for shopping malls. There exist no nice, clean public beaches along the whole bay and the public is forced to go outside of Manado City, past the developments that block the access to the ocean, to swim and enjoy the sea. Most tourists would like to be able to look at the sunset as they do in Bali, and most of the international tourists who come here are interested in nature and are escaping the cement cities that they come from. For example, along the Red Sea, overzealous construction along coastal areas has caused a crisis situation for many tourist operators, and development has in fact been counterproductive.

Develop efficient, effective and appealing infrastructures in the greater Manado area

Manado’s streets and sidewalks desperately need to be improved. It is dangerous to walk along the sidewalks, as one might injure them selves. The city is in need of a serious facelift: streets and sidewalks need to be repaved, the infrastructure is not pedestrian-friendly, there are very few safe crosswalks, there are no shade-giving trees and no places to sit down and enjoy the city. We suggest there be more public greens, benches and trash bins and that streets and sidewalks are made safe to drive and walk on. Improving the infrastructure of the city may help to improve the general atmosphere and thereby reduce the chaotic appearance and bad habits of many traffic participants.

Implementing and structuring an effective sewage and garbage disposal system

Because of the lack of an adequate waste infrastructure, the public slogan of Manado being a Clean and Green City is not an accurate description of the truth. Garbage and trash is left visibly throughout the city, one can see open sewage under the sidewalks and seeping uncontrolled into the sea and into the harbor from which the tourist boats to Bunaken leave. Floating trash throughout the Bay of Manado and in Bunaken National Park threatens marine life and disrupts boat operations. There is a desperate need to provide and distribute more recognizable garbage cans throughout populated areas that are emptied daily, and disposed of correctly. There also is a need for effective water disposal systems, both for land and waterways.

Tackling destructive fishing and the illegal live coral fish trades

In the interest of sustaining the tourist trade, one must protect the coral fish in this area. There have to be effective controls to avoid the increased pillage of coral reefs because the use of bombs and potassium cyanide is still widespread in the area despite being illegal. Potassium cyanide is used to specifically target individual fishes living within the coral. Besides stunning and in many cases killing the target fish, this chemical indiscriminately kills all sensitive benthic invertebrates as well.

Recently, several hundred Napoleon Wrasses marked for the live fish trade have been seized from two individuals in the area and released in the park. This event has been echoed throughout the world and the apprehension of the culprits and freeing of the fish has been received very positively. However, one must wonder how many fish have previously been illegally captured and killed by these operators, not withholding how much of the coral reef ecosystem has been damaged during the capture of the fish. The use of bombs in fishing is a highly destructive and inefficient fishing method, as the large proportion of killed fish is of no economic value and is sinking to the bottom after the blast. Bombed areas of coral reef will take decades to recover. It has been reported to us from many sources that blast and cyanide fishing is still going on.

Similarly, the collection of fish for the live aquarium trade removes especially those species that divers are most interested in, not to mention that an estimated 70% of wild caught aquarium fish do not live beyond one year in captivity. If unchecked, these activities will destroy the basis for any future dive tourism in this area. Penalties must be stiffer and enforcement consequential in order to deter lawbreakers.

We are pleased to have the opportunity to submit this proposal with a range of suggestions to increase the standing and improve the position of North Sulawesi. Our primary concern is with providing the best solution for sustaining natural resources as well as increasing the economic welfare through tourism and non-damaging agriculture whilst sustaining local fish stocks. Additionally, we believe that a Marine Protected Area in the sea north of Likupang, bordering both a National Park and a Nature Reserve, will set a precedent and may prove to be a model that will be used as an example for conservation worldwide. Our further suggestions will help to verify the image of Manado as a clean and likable city and will help it in attaining the goal of becoming World Tourism City 2010, emphasizing the natural beauty of Manado. Making it a true green city with an efficient infrastructure will complement the god-given natural beauty that surrounds it.

Robin Marinos, Assisted by: Sebastian Ferse, MSc

Founder and Director, Marine Ecologist


What is the Future of the North Sulawesi Marine Reserve?


The North Sulawesi Marine Reserve, in Indonesia, was established to preserve and protect the Coral Reef life and the indigenous flora and fauna. Millions of USAID taxpayers dollars were used in the project to establish a well managed and long-lasting sustainable marine reserve environment. New structures and business related operations were prohibited in the reserve boundaries. No fishing allowed except open water subsistence fishing tolerated by only the indigenous fisherman living within the Marine Reserve boundaries. Also the all important Mangrove habitat as well as all natural forms plant and animal species were to be off limits to humans. Strict enforcement was to be guaranteed by the Conservation Department, based in Manado with a large base on Bunaken the main Island on the Reserve, and by the Coast guard (the Conservation Office Under authority of the Forestry Department).

1997 - Daily occurrences can be witnessed routinely (videos and photos available)!

Anchoring on reef by pleasure, fishing and even dive boats!

Motoring over reef heads--a danger to snorkelers and divers, not to mention damage to reef!

Fishing in and off the coral fringe--day and night- also with large objects to overturn coral!

Trap net fishing on the reefs, ornamental fishing and for other purposes, some stationary trap nets!

Spear fishing-- Day and Night, normally at low tide when coral fish are vulnerable--also around snorkelers and divers!

Low tide pick-and-hack harvesting of clams, shells, coral, and sea life- everyday!

Selling of pillaged shells and sea life on Bunaken beach in front of the Conservation Base!

Waste and Disposal spread throughout the Reserve, especially on Bunaken, public bins non-existent!

New Constructions of all kinds on the Reserve, the pillage of the Islands natural growth & resources used to build hotels, hostels, restaurants, and dive operations, under the banner of "Eco tourism"!

Divers and snorkelers are noticing the obvious absence of large coral fish, as well as all forms of clams and shell life! Not to mention the totally damaged areas of the reefs!

Will there be any Marine life to Protect?

1998-The Establishment and Forming of the North Sulawesi Water sports Association (NSWA), formerly known as the NS Dive Association.

A major step toward protecting the North Sulawesi Marine Reserve and the surrounding areas. Formed by concerned members connected to the tourism trade, primarily the Diving Resort sector. Originally only six marine tourism operators members in mid 1998, has expanded to nearly 30 members by 2006. The Earth Advocates had pleaded for such an organization during 1997 to provide the local authorities with a leader in protecting the Marine environment.

The NSWA has proven itself as necessary and essential in protecting the area as well as establishing a strong and constant tourism base. Importantly working together with the local community leaders, the Indonesian conservation department, the coast guard (water police), and the local government. Including patrolling the North Sulawesi Waters.

Some of the notable occurrences since February 1999

Cyanide fishing had been witnessed directly off Bunaken the most popular dive and snorkeling point. The sighting was reported by member of NSWA. The most shocking revelation is that it was discovered Japanese Resort and Diving Center, 'SamdueraIndah" were allegedly involved with this action. Not a NSWA member.

Protected or Pillaged? The chaos continues!
January 2000 -
And onward, will there ever be an end?

There seem to be reoccurring situations threatening the healthy existence of the North Sulawesi Reserve and the surrounding areas.

The mining problem

Since the discovery of Gold in North Sulawesi, and specifically in North Minahasa, there has been a constant threat to the waters in and around the area. When the Australian Mining company, Aurora, retreated from its plans to do mining in North Minahasa 1999, due to unfavorable conditions, environmentalists, activists,most local residents and tour operators were relieved. However illegal mining, similar to Dumoga Bone, small local mining operations have spread all over the area, to the fringe of Tangkoko National Park. They are using large amounts of mercury, not having any idea what damage it can do to people's health. Local police and local land owners seem to be heavily involved, as the streams, rivers and ground water is being contaminated. As the Illegal mines have spread and extracted gold, and become more influential over certain authorities, the language has changed from "illegal mining" to "traditional mining" and therefore making this type mining seem legal! Until August 2006, very little has been done to stop this Damaging form of Mining beside an effort to convert many of these illegal miners to using potassium Cyanide rather than Mercury.

A photo of one of the many Illegal Mining operations in the North Minahasa Regency of North Sulawesi.

The new mining problem for North Minahasa Environment- P. T. Meares Soputan Mine (MSM)!

During 2005, the mining operation, P.T. MSM, re-initiated pre- mining activities at Toko Tindung, North Minahasa, the same mine abandoned by Aurora. MSM plan to dump all their tailing just North of the world renown Dive area the Lembay Straits, East of the North Sulawesi Marine National Park, and Beside the Tangkoko National Park, and an area being proposed as a World Heritage Marine Area! A Earth Advocates representative has met with mining officials and visited the mining site, and has strongly advised the authorities to reconsider their options before all hell breaks loose.

Since the meeting, protests have occurred, paid thugs have attacked local protestors and the situation has developed into a conflict with the overwhelming consensus against the opening of a large scale Mining Operation. This proposed 10 year operation, in addition to the existing Illegal mining operations, adds to a situation getting worse for the North Minahasa environment. Actually, this operation has not got the green light to operate as of August 2006 , and there are legal disputes to be cleared up first. This can delay the operation until a legal decision can be made as to whether mining is feasible, can be safely preformed here without effecting the surrounding areas, which depend economically and generally on a sustainable healthy environment, which the mine can not guarantee. Earth Advocates are convinced that this is the case, knowing the North Minahasa area, to allow large scale Mining here would have far reaching destructive short and long term affects to the area. We therefore support the Banning of Mining, including the so called traditional mining in this area!

For more information on this subject see the report on North Sulawesi Water sports Association web site at:

Periodic Attempts to Build oversized Resorts within the Reserve, Eradunia project stopped!

Eradunia, a company based in Jakarta was planning to build a luxury resort with 54 cottages on the island of Bunaken, a further 54 will be added in a second stage. They had bought a large piece of land on the island. After a preliminary investigation by Earth advocates, it had been discovered that the Eradunia project did not have the correct licenses, nor go through the correct legal channels.The National Park Officials were by passed, an attempt to ignore National Park Laws and regulations which would never permitted such a resort to be built there. Eradunia typically misusing the term Eco tourism to sell their idea of exploiting and further destroying the Island sanctuary. Earth Advocates made an official Protest and asked for an investigation of the company and their deeds, as did others. Subsequently, the company seemed to disappear as they appeared, quickly. Periodically such attempts are made by ignorant and careless entrepreneurs
disregarding the possible consequences of their actions.

There still exists illegal fishing operations within and around the park.

Since January 2000 there have been numerous sightings of Illegal fishing boats operating within the boundaries of the Marine Protected area, and the discovery of the destruction created of such operations. Most of the dive spots around Mantehage have been destroyed by dynamite and cyanide fishing. Damage has also been done around Bunaken.

The increased efforts by the NSWA and other concerned parties have been doing their part in creating awareness, involving local villages, and increasing patrolling to stop the illegal pillage. And it has shown some good results if one could imagine what it would be like if left solely to the Conservation Department and the Water Police!

An exert by a foreign observer living in Manado quoted the following to demonstrate how bad the situation was before the NSWA involvement!

" A couple of weeks ago there was a ship, owned by a company in Luwuk, in the the National Park. They said they wanted to start catching groupers and napoleons within the park, for "scientific purposes". Well, Luwuk is not exactly a place known for research in Indonesia. In fact the reefs around Luwuk are already totally destroyed by local fishing companies. This is not the end of the madness: these guys had a license, allowing them to operate in North Sulawesi, which was issued by the police (Polda) in Manado!!! Can you tell me what the police has to do with fishing operations? Anyway, as far as we know these guys are not yet operating. Our diving association is carefully watching this. Since about a month we are using our own boats, staff and money for night patrols within the park. The police and National Park Office don't have any money for it, not even for gasoline, but they are supporting it. Usually one or two rangers are on board of the boats. It is planned to found a private organization, again funded by the dive association, which takes over the patrolling in the park. So far the offices are supporting this idea and we are moving forward."

And, here another Trap Net Fishing story from 2000!

"A few months ago a special kind of net was discovered at Fukui, fixed with holes which were grounded right in the corals. Pretty illegal thin g... Some of the dive companies and their guests did their best to destroy this thing, and succeeded. What happened then? It was reported to the police, several times, and when reported the police asked for compensation for destroying it. The police never did a thing against the illegal net but is now trying to get some money out of it.. Greed, greed, greed,

I now understand why some people refer to North Sulawesi as the "center of corruption in Indonesia". Somehow I fear that things might even get worse with the increased independence from Jakarta."

Here a Police Patrolman taking tourists on a 3 hour snorkeling tour to supplement his pay and pay for petrol.

Police and Customs Actions increase during 2006

For the first time recorded, both police and customs authorities have taken action against the Illegal live fish Trade in North Sulawesi. In 2006, three notable busts occurred that involve Hundreds of fish listed by CITES as protected Species, primarily the Napoleon Wrasse were rescued and later released back into the Marine reserve waters. Legal action is pending on an International level to finally stop this pillage from continuing. These are very welcoming and positive signs toward the future trend!

For more information concerning these busts read the Report in the Indonesian Conservation Newsletter from July 11, 2006, Issue 9-27a; To subscribe send an email to editors at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Leadership changes may lead to increased awareness and environmental protection!

Earth Advocates believe local authorities and police were part of the problem here because they have been poorly led, trained, and paid. Major changes are needed to rectify many of these problems and to create a strong sustaining awareness base at all levels of society. With the change of the Leadership, the governor of North Sulawesi and the Bupati (Leader) of North Minahasa, there is a strong chance this may happen. Declaring himself publicly as a "GREEN Governor", Governor Sarundajang has increased the hope of a permanent change toward increased awareness, protection and conservation of the environment.

CONGRADULATIONS New GOVERNOR SARUNDAJANG, wants be known as 'PRO ENVIRONMENTAL' Quality leaders are needed especially here where sustaining the Natural habitat and ecosystem thus establishing a healthy environmental balance is paramount to the future survival of all in this area! See current projects.

North Sulawesi Marine Park Needs Your Support!

Despite all the chaos occurring in this area mentioned above, we truly believe that the tide is turning toward pro environment stance due to some vital changes and the efforts of many, as NSWA! We encourage tourists to go, enjoy, support, join and help us in our efforts. Let your ideals, observations and protests be known to us and the Indonesian authorities, at local and national levels. This would be the better way to seek positive changes and reverse the destructive trends. We and those who are struggling to protect these areas need all the support we can get! We thank you in advance, Earth Advocates

Illegal Sea Shell Trade

One of the predominantly 'Maduran' shell traders, showing off one of many plus 20 Kg. Giant clams for sale in Bali. These are gathered all over Indonesia's once pristine coral reef areas which are totally pillaged and destroyed to acquire shells. As of July, 1997, this dealer could 'only' guarantee about ten of these shells a month because they are becoming extinct.

Smelly bags of uncleaned, unpolished 'Nautilus' shells; approximately two thousand shells. The population of the prehistorically renowned Nautilus is now in danger of becoming extinct. The uncontrolled and unmonitored shell trade is taking its toll on many reefs as more shells and coral are removed than nature can replace. This dealer guaranteed to supply approximately one thousand Nautilus shells per month!

Giant Clams, protected by written law, are openly removed from the sea and traded/sold without regard to law or existing declining populations.
This dealer had thirty available at approximately US$60 per shell. ( July '97)

One of many Shell shops on Bali. Evidence of total exploitation of coral reefs. A back room to be cleaned and polished for businessmen and tourists.

Tourist totally surprised of the size and amounts of shells available.
All unchecked and unregistered by government monitors.

One of many sellers roaming Indonesian tourist beaches selling shells, including those protected by written laws.
One Nautilus shell can
cost as little as 2 dollars (US).

Latest Updates
An Investigation during July, 1998, revealed that the situation was becoming increasingly worse as the Indonesian Authorities as well as environmental players turn a blind eye and continue to allow the pillage and marketing of CITIES declared protected Sea Shell species. Many of such shells are sold openly in Mauls and shops in Jakarta as on beaches and shops on Bali, and even on National Marine Reserves as in North Sulawesi, where locals and visitors openly pick and hack out the living creatures for their shells. The prices of these shells have gone down to an all time low since the economic crisis has taken hold and the stock piles have accumulated. The main target for purchase are foreigners now. Many traders exporting without problems to CITIES member states partners, a daily occurrence on Bali and Java.