The coral reefs in between the islands of Padang were gravely damaged due to various impacts, mainly fishing with destructive methods (explosives, cyanide), industrial sewage, oil and coal terminals and the lack of purification plants in Padang. The ecosystem’s health was risked for quick profits. It left many reefs destroyed and endangered the remaining coral formations and the endangered species of the blue coral (Heliopora), which are home to large populations of fish and invertebrates. ZMT urged for the establishment of an MPA.
The first step was made by the initiation of a marine biology and coral studies degree programme at the local university, necessary to gather relevant information on the reefs’ condition and its ecophysiology. The research delivered a base for protection measurements and sustainable exploitation. Cooperation between the non-profit organization Sanari, the Indonesian Navy, Bung Hatta University, ZMT and the local government led to the imprisonment of blast fishers. A series of student’s theses (BSc., MSc. and PhD.) and several publications were produced (see publications page). In addition media coverage, teaching manuals for school and kindergarten and videos was initiated.
Click here, for a PDF of early photos from the Area Development Project ADP in 1985, when the first systematic visits of coral reefs took place.
More efforts were undertaken and finally in 2000, with support from the German Embassy in Jakarta, the first MPA in Western Indonesia could be established, measuring more than 40 000 ha. Due to the historical development of protected areas in Indonesia, which were mainly terrestrial, the responsibility was with the Forest Department. In the first years there was no financial support to manage the MPA. The establishment of the Ministry for Marine Affairs and Fisheries (MMAF, in Indonesian first DKP then KKP) was followed by an inventory of neglected areas. Intense lobbying by ZMT, Sanari and the local university led to step by step progress.
Finally in 2010 the establishment of a permanent office, patrol boats and a budget for public relations made it possible to work efficiently on the protection of the MPA of Pulau Pieh. For details please see the official websites about marine conservation in Indonesia from the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries (KKP; http://kkp.go.id/djprl/kkhl), the regional implementation unit (Loka KKPN; https://twitter.com/LKKPN_Pekanbaru) and the local management units (BPSPL Pulau Pieh TWP; http://bpsplpadang.kkp.go.id and SatKer; http://kkji.kp3k.kkp.go.id/index.php/basisdata-kawasan-konservasi/details/1/70; http://picbear.online/twp_pieh).
SatKer is performing regular surveys on coral reefs within and close to the MPA. In close cooperation with Sanari, data are collected and processed. The Loka KKPN is publishing reports about the most important findings, with summarizing graphics. In addition the two local Universities (Bung Hatta and Andalas) are supervising theses in marine related areas. Also the Research Center for Oceanography (P2O) from LIPI is performing surveys both in MPA Pulau Pieh and the MPA at the Mentawai Islands, some 180 km west of Padang. And finally ZMT scientists collaborate with KKP, LIPI, Bung Hatta University and Loka / SatKer / Sanari to collect data and make survey results available on websites (a selection of reports and links to other websites can be found on the publications page). One of the most recent publications compares coral reefs near urban areas – including Padang (Heery et al. 2018, Urban coral reefs: Degradation and resilience of hard coral assemblages in coastal cities of East and Southeast Asia, see also in publication list).
It is suggested that the involved institution join forces and come up with a review publication, which compares the situation of the Padang and Mentawai coral reefs from more than 20 years ago (Kunzmann 1997) with actual findings.
An investigation into coral resilience would be particularly interesting. While huge coral areas in front of Padang had been severely damaged by a red tide, a toxic algal bloom in 1997/8, there was only minor damage from the El Niño in 2016, leaving most of the corals intact. Coral and fish diversity is recovering and fish and coral larvae from Pulau Pieh have been found outside the area. However, the “old days”, where a pair of Napoleon fish (the male larger than 2 m !) and a bunch of large Groupers would greet the divers at a fixed position at Pulau Pieh – as was the case from 1992 – 1997 – seem to be gone.