Thank your for bringing the plight of Komodo National Park once again to the public eye in “Fishermen blast premier dive sites off Indonesia” (The Jakarta Post Online, April 20).
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 few 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 fisherman 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 suggest 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 fishermen and fish traders I talked with actually agree with this idea.
What is unacceptable to them, however, is to see how other fishermen 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 the most professional and dedicated law enforcers I have ever worked with.
Arresting a group of fishermen 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 fishermen who are not from the Komodo area and 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.
Peter J. Mous
Komodo Island, East Nusa Tenggara