Misool in Raja Ampat is today home to the world’s richest reef system, but this was not always the case. Southern Raja Ampat was once in danger of losing the very resource that is now one of its most valuable assets, both as a source of food and as a source of employment. By 2005, the relentless assault from shark finners, bomb fishermen, and industrial-scale long liners had begun decimating Misool’s reef system. In 2005, Misool and the local community partnered to create a privately funded and managed marine reserve that is also a No-Take Zone (NTZ), meaning that all types of fishing and “taking” (for example, turtle eggs or mollusks) are prohibited.
These successes have drawn a new surge of attention and tourism, and with it, new threats to the very reef system responsible for the area’s renewed economic and environmental health. Much-enhanced fishing has led to a spike in the live reef trade. This is aided by the new, large ferries that have emerged since tourism began climbing in 2013 — another result of better diving, more resorts and restaurants, more employment, and more press.
Under the direction of WCS, Misool will establish a Fisherman’s Cooperative over a two year period that will provide employment to individuals who, but for jobs provided by the Cooperative, would fish in the NTZ and thereby threaten the marine wildlife protected by the NTZ. The cooperative will establish and implement business development and microloan programs to provide alternative livelihoods to residents.