In diver’s paradise, communities unite to protect their most valuable useful resource: reefs


You’d be forgiven in case you couldn’t discover Timor-Leste on a map.

The island nation — which solely gained its independence from Indonesia in 2002, making it the youngest nation within the Pacific — will not be a lot bigger than town of Sydney, Australia.

But its waters provide a spectacular show of coral reefs and marine life, together with sea turtles, reef fish and the big and elusive dugong. For hardcore divers, Timor-Leste is as shut as one can get to paradise.

Now, thanks to a brand new effort to mix 12 community-run marine protected areas (MPAs) — areas of the ocean the place human exercise is restricted, stopping overfishing and conserving the waters wholesome — into one giant community on the Timorese island
of Atauro, this stretch of ocean may thrive for generations to come. 

Conservation Information spoke with Trudiann Dale, the pinnacle of Conservation Worldwide Timor-Leste,
to discover how native communities in Atauro are constructing their livelihoods by means of conservation, whereas defending the pure assets they depend on.

Q: You have been instrumental within the creation of this MPA community. The place did the concept come from?

Reply: There’s a conventional regulation in Timor-Leste referred to as taru bandu, which designates pure areas as “no-take” zones that enable nature to thrive.
A couple of years in the past, the communities of Atauro marked out a number of taru bandu areas and, with Conservation Worldwide’s steerage, weaved in fashionable sustainable administration strategies, main to the institution of 12 separate marine protected

Now, the communities of Atauro are taking this one step additional and unifying every of those marine protected areas beneath a single community to strengthen conservation efforts — and receives a commission for it. As a part of this unification, we’ve helped the
community negotiate an annual price from dive companies who will now pay for entry to the community’s protected dive websites. Income will help the administration and monitoring of the protected areas, and the institution of a reserve for emergencies
or pure disasters, amongst different issues.

Conservation Worldwide has labored in Timor-Leste for a decade and is the one worldwide NGO centered on conservation and environmental points within the nation. Our objective is to assist this nation develop a nationwide protected space system to assist them
develop sustainably. So we’re placing the constructing blocks in place — from growing these MPAs to educating villagers on sustainable fishing and agricultural methods. Extra lately, now we have guided the collaboration between group
conservation teams and dive operators to assist construct sustainable tourism packages on the island. The dive firms on the island are even serving to prepare Timorese residents to change into licensed dive operators.

Q: What do the communities of Atauro get out of this?

A: Not solely will the community profit the communities, it is going to achieve this by defending their treasured pure assets, as a substitute of destroying them — securing fish to eat and livelihoods by means of tourism.

Timor-Leste is presently one of many poorest nations in Southeast Asia, counting on oil as its most important export — although these reserves are projected to run dry by 2023. In the face of looming financial collapse, conserving these marine areas and reefs for ecotourism could possibly be this island nation’s best hope. Your entire environmental sector in Timor-Leste stays comparatively untapped — and this new
protected space community presents an unprecedented alternative for the communities that protect and depend on Atauro’s reefs to achieve income from their conservation efforts by means of sustainable ecotourism.

Q: What’s the top recreation? 

A: The Atauro MPA community will allow people to take their futures into their personal fingers by means of a collective voice — addressing long-term points like unemployment, meals insecurity and availability of fresh water, with out relying completely
on the federal government.  

Over time, we hope this community can act as a mannequin for areas throughout Timor-Leste so different communities can begin working with the personal sector to develop sustainable ecotourism. 

At present, the communities throughout the island are proposing that the federal government legally declare Atauro as a nationwide park, which might solidify the popularity of its pure worth and assist push ahead sustainable tourism.

Q: How can this MPA community have an effect past Atauro? 

A: That is the primary second in Timor-Leste’s historical past {that a} group of communities stands to profit financially from their commitments to conservation. It’s a win-win, and a major step within the nation’s drive to construct its economic system
on sustainable tourism whereas defending an space of unparalleled marine variety. 

Atauro’s lovely coral reefs are residence to a wealth of fish, together with one-third of the worldwide inhabitants of whales and dolphins. A 2016 evaluation finished by Conservation Worldwide scientists discovered that these reefs have the highest common of reef fish species on the earth

Given what we all know concerning the function of oceans in halting local weather change and their more and more poor well being due to human exercise — the rising demand for seafood, the crucial to protect coral reefs and the marine life they help — it’s
not a stretch to say the waters within the Atauro community are invaluable to the whole planet. 


Trudiann Dale is the nation director of Conservation Worldwide Timor-Leste. Kiley Value is a employees author for Conservation Worldwide. 

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Cowl picture: Reefs in Atauro Island, Timor-Leste. (© Paul Hilton/Conservation Worldwide)

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