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The Raja Ampat Islands

In the Heart of the Coral Triangle

Cockatoo Leaffish, Raja Ampat - photo courtesy of friends of Pindito

The Raja Ampat, or Four Kings Archipelago encompasses more than 9.8 million acres of land and sea off the northwestern tip of Indonesia's West Papua Province.

The area includes the 4 large islands of Waigeo, Batanta, Salawati, and Misool, plus hundreds of smaller islands. The archipelago is part of an area known as the Bird's Head functional seascape, which also contains Cenderawasih Bay, the largest marine national park in Indonesia.

Located in the Coral Triangle, the heart of the world's coral reef biodiversity, the seas and dive sites around Raja Ampat are possibly the richest in the world. The area's massive coral colonies show that its reefs are resistant to threats like coral bleaching and disease - threats that now jeopardise the survival of corals around the world. In addition, strong ocean currents sweep coral larvae across the Indian and Pacific oceans to replenish other reef ecosystems. Raja Ampat's coral diversity, resilience, and ability to replenish reefs make it a global priority for marine protection.

Survey Confirms Highest Marine Biodiversity on Earth

In 2002, The Nature Conservancy and our partners conducted a scientific survey of the Raja Ampat Islands to collect information on its marine ecosystems, mangroves, and forests. The survey brought Raja Ampat's total number of confirmed corals to 537 species - an incredible 75% of all known coral species. In addition, 828 fish species were recorded, raising the known total for the area to an amazing 1,074. On land, the survey found lush forests, rare plants, limestone outcroppings, and nesting beaches for thousands of sea turtles. See the results from their more recent 2006 marine survey report.

Though human impacts here are less severe than elsewhere in Indonesia, Raja Ampat's natural resources are endangered by overfishing and destructive fishing, turtle poaching, and unsustainable logging. The Indonesian government recently established the region as a separate administrative unit, which will give communities a greater say in managing the natural resources upon which their livelihoods depend. This structure also offers an important opportunity to include conservation in the spatial planning of the newly formed local government.

Ensuring Conservation Through Partnerships

Dive the West Papua Province to see many different species of cardinalfish - photo courtesy of Richard Buxo

To address these issues, the Conservancy launched a new project to protect Raja Ampat, working in close partnership with the government and communities to:

  1. Contribute to a comprehensive conservation action plan to protect archipelago's reefs and forests;
  2. Help incorporate marine protected area management into long-term planning and policy; and,
  3. Establish a network of marine protected areas for the islands of Raja Ampat.

The Conservancy's ultimate goal is to protect these magnificent reefs while sustaining the livelihoods of local people.

More Recent Developments

In 2007 the Raja Ampat Regency government declared 6 Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), prior to which only 1 MPA existed, Southwest Waigeo.

In 2009, the boundaries of 3 of the MPAs (Mayalibit Bay, Dampier Strait and Southeast Misool) were expanded by government decree. At the time of writing there are 7 MPAs in the Raja Ampat network now covering a total of 1,185,940 ha.

They consist of:

  • Kofiau and Boo islands
  • South East Misool
  • Dampier Straits
  • Mayalibit Bay
  • West Waigeo
  • Sayang Wayag
  • Ayau-Asia Islands

The Raja Ampat MPA network is part of a larger network across the Bird’s Head Seascape which includes 12 MPAs encompassing more than 3 million ha.

The Raja Ampat government in 2010 declared their waters to be a shark sanctuary and outlawed the capture and killing of sharks, turtles, dugongs and rays. Effective enforcement and monitoring are providing increasing amounts of data and expertise to local communities seeking to protect their coral reefs.

As of 1 February 2015, a new Raja Ampat Marine Park entry permit tag structure is in place. Named the ‘Tariff to support environmental services in Raja Ampat’ this tag costs US$ 100 for international visitors and is valid for 12 months from the date of purchase.

How is the Marine Park Tariff spent?

Raja Ampat Marine Park entry permit fees are directed to the operational costs of Raja Ampat’s 7 networked MPAs which were mapped and designed by communities, then finalised and adopted by the Raja Ampat Regency government.

Between 70 and 80% of the funds gathered through the tariff is directly allocated to managing and protecting the MPAs. The remainder is used to support economic development, and local services such as educations, community and health. The MPAs are monitored, patrolled and enforced by local community members. Through the tariff the government can fund the costs of fuel, boat maintenance and stipends for participating members. It is asserted that neither the government or any private company or individual receives any portion of tariff funds.

Educational Initiative – The Kalabia

The educational vessel the Kalabia is a 100 foot sailing classroom operated jointly by the Nature Conservancy and Conservation International, educating local people about the science of conservation and the perils of reef degradation."Educating these residents at all ages on the importance of coral reefs and sustainable fishing is essential for these communities", says Rili Djohani, the director of the Conservancy's Coral Triangle Center in Bali. "Teachers have learned about the sea and are developing a curriculum to teach their pupils - including a pride song that the children now sing about their amazing marine resources".

For further information, please contact:

The Nature Conservancy
Coral Triangle Centre
Jalan Pengembak No. 2
Sanur, Bali, 80228
tel +62.361.287.272
fax +62.361.270.737
email | www.coraltrianglecenter.orgOpens in a new window |

The Nature Conservancy is a private, international, non-profit organization that preserves plants, animals and natural communities representing the diversity of life on Earth by protecting the lands and waters they need to survive. To date, the Conservancy and its more than 1,000,000 members have been responsible for the protection of more than 14 million acres in the United States and have helped preserve more than 80 million acres in Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific. On the web at

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