Maluku reefs have huge eco-tourism potential: Official
M. Azis Tunny , The Jakarta Post , Ambon | Thu, 04/02/2009 3:17 PM | The Archipelago
The Banda Islands in Maluku are home to more than 60 percent (or 432) of the world's 700 coral species, which is why most of the province's waters are included in the Coral Triangle, an official says.
Maluku is unique in that unlike any other Indonesian province, more than 90 percent of its waters are included in the coral triangle, known for its high biodiversity, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry research official Gellwynn Jusuf said.
"This area really has huge potential," Gellwynn told The Jakarta Post in Maluku on Monday.
The area's marine biodiversity had led the Indonesian government to come up with the Coral Triangle Initiative - proposed for the first time during the Asia-Pacific Economic Forum (APEC) summit in 2007.
The initiative, Gellwynn said, was aimed at protecting coral reefs from damage caused by global warming.
If managed optimally and effectively, Maluku's marine areas could yield high economic returns, he said. With vast areas of coral reefs, Maluku is rich in fish and other sea biota including decorative fish species.
Fish species found in Maluku waters include the Black spotted Puffer, Trumpet fish, Anemones, Juvenile Damselfish, Porcupine fish, Ornate Ghost Pipefish, Scorpion Fish, Lizard fish, Moray Eels, Seahorses and Banded Sea Snakes.
Such richness, Gellwynn said, made Maluku waters highly attractive to tourists.
The economic potential of the Coral Triangle, bordered by Indonesia, East Timor, the Philippines, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, was as much as US$2.3 billion a year, Gellwynn said, and could provide an income for 120 million people.
"This potential must be exploited for the sake of the development of Maluku," Gellwynn said.
However, he also expressed concern over environmentally unfriendly fishing practices such as the use of bombs and chemicals or the removal of coral from reefs.
"These things threaten the sustainability of the reefs."