Indonesia is defined by its marine environment. The country is an archipelagic nation strung out across more than 17,000 islands and bounded by deep ocean basins and shallow seas. In fact, close to 75% of Indonesia’s total area is sea. With so many islands, its coastline is thought to exceed 80,000 km – including large areas of seagrass, mangrove and coral reef habitats.
This marine environment is of incredible importance to the people that live in Indonesia. The country is the 4th most populace in the world and close to ¼ of this huge population lives in coastal communities and depends directly on marine and coastal resources. A still larger proportion live on coastal plains and a significant percentage of their daily protein intake comes from the sea. In addition, it is estimated that over 20% of Indonesia’s GDP comes from its seas and oceans.
Fisheries in Indonesia range from the simple – a man with a hook and line patrolling the reefs in his traditional perahu – to industrial-scale fleets of long-liners targeting pelagic species such as tuna. Mariculture is also of great importance and low-impact industries such as seaweed farming provide a valuable source of income to coastal communities.
But despite its richness, Indonesia’s marine environment now faces a number of problems. Over exploitation of fisheries, destructive fishing practices, pollution and coastal development have had a dramatic impact on the marine world. High-value species such as sharks and grouper have been ruthlessly exploited, coral reefs damaged by bomb and cyanide fishermen and mangroves cleared for developments. The scale of these problems is enormous – for example, it is thought that just 5% of Indonesia’s coral reefs remain in a pristine condition.
However, it is not too late to conserve Indonesia’s marine environment. Protected areas have already been established throughout the country and programmes have been developed to ensure that fisheries are more sustainable in the future. WWF is working alongside companies involved in the live fish trade for example, helping them to reduce the environmental impact of their business and ensure that future generations of Indonesians will benefit from the extraordinary richness of their country’s seas and oceans.