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The Indonesian nation is intrinsically connected with and immensely reliant upon its coasts and oceans. As the largest archipelagic country on earth with 13,487 islands and 95,200 kilometers of coastline, the second-longest in the world after that of Canada, the sea accounts for around two-thirds of Indonesian national territory.
All citizens, whether they reside in the country’s farmlands or mountains, in the cities or along the coast, affect and are affected by the sea.
Indispensable to life itself, Indonesia’s coastal and marine ecosystems also contribute significantly to the nation’s prosperity and overall quality of life.
Last year, the coastal and ocean economic sectors including capture fisheries, aquaculture, energy and mineral resources, marine tourism, sea transportation and maritime industries and services contributed about 30 percent to the country’s GDP and employed more than 20 million people.
Our grocery stores and restaurants are stocked with seafood. Our ports are bustling with passenger ferries and seaborne cargoes. Approximately 45 percent of the world’s goods and commodities are transported through Indonesian waters.
Millions of visitors annually flock to the nation’s beaches, creating jobs and contributing substantially to the region’s economy through one of the world’s largest and most rapidly growing economic sectors, namely coastal and marine tourism. Indonesian coasts and seas also provide a vast expanse of commerce, trade, energy and mineral resources, and a buffer for security.
For the last three decades some 65 percent of Indonesia’s total oil and gas production have been tapped from reserves located in coastal and offshore areas.
The total value of Indonesia’s coastal and ocean economy is approximately $1,200 trillion.
Those tangible and quantifiable contributions are just one measure of the value of the nation’s coasts and oceans.
There are many even more important attributes that cannot be given a price tag, such as global climate control, life-support functions, cultural heritage and the aesthetic value of the coasts and oceans with their intrinsic power to relax, rejuvenate and inspire.
Atmospheric interactions within Indonesia’s area dictate climate and weather, and ocean currents regulate the earth’s global temperature. Spreading of the underlying seafloor creates towering mountains, deep undersea trenches, such as West Sumatra and South Java trenches and Banda Sea, and active hydrothermal vents that abound with unique marine organisms.
The atmosphere is enriched with oxygen we breathe, and depleted CO2 functions as a carbon-sink to halt global warming.
Indonesian coasts and seas host the largest biological diversity on earth with huge potential for pharmaceutical products, biofuel, and raw materials for other industries; and are a frontier for exciting exploration, research and education.
The Indonesian seas teem with life millions of years in the making, from the tiniest of microscopic bacteria to the largest of living creatures, the blue whale, dependent on the ocean’s bounty of phytoplankton, seaweed, seagrass beds, coral reefs and mangroves.
In short, the importance of Indonesia’s coasts and seas cannot be overstated. They are pivotal to the very existence and well-being of not only the nation but also global society.
Unfortunately, our use and enjoyment of the coasts, oceans and their resources come at a cost, and we
are only discovering the full extent of the consequences of our destructive activities. The majority of fish stocks in many marine areas have already been either fully exploited or overfished.
This is especially true in areas with high concentrations of domestic fishermen including the Straits of Malacca, the North Coast of Java, the South Coast of Sulawesi, and the Bali Strait; and in areas where IUU (illegal, unregulated and unreported) fishing practices by foreign fishermen are rampant, such as the Natuna Sea, Sulawesi Sea, Arafura Sea and the Indonesian Exclusive Economic Zone of both the Indian and Pacific Oceans.
Marine pollution, beach erosion, physical degradation of coastal habitats (estuaries, mangroves, seagrass beds and coral reefs) and depletion of biodiversity as a result of indiscriminate land- and marine-based human activities in highly populated coastal zones or development activities, such as Medan, Batam, along the north coast of Java, the south coast of South Sulawesi and Bali, have reached a level which threaten the sustainable capacity of coastal and marine ecosystems to support further economic development and human life itself.
Such a threatened condition could be aggravated by the negative impact of ongoing global climate change including increases in sea temperatures, rising sea levels and extreme weather.
The writer is professor in coastal and ocean management, Bogor Agricultural University.