Field Notes: Advancing Surf Conservation in Indonesia

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Save The Waves & Conservation International Partnership Makes Progress in Morotai

By Mara Arroyo | Save The Waves’ Surf Protected Area Network Manager

After attending the 6th Global Wave Conference on the Gold Coast in Australia, I found myself reinvigorated and eager to collaborate with local communities and work together on conservation projects to protect the places we love. 

Luckily, I traveled directly from the conference to one of Indonesia’s Northern islands called Morotai, located in the province of North Maluku, to continue the development of our pilot project for Surf Protected Area Networks (SPANs) under the Surf Conservation Partnership with Conservation International. I was so excited to travel with our partners to become familiar with the communities and how we can work together to protect this unique example of a surf ecosystem.

Though remote, the travel time was worth it. When I finally arrived in Morotai, I was amazed by this tropical paradise and was immediately inspired by the ocean, the plants, and the people of the fishing villages. Together, these are the elements of a surf ecosystem and it’s why Save The Waves was invited by the local community and our partners: to work together to protect it.

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Bido is a small fishing village where we were warmly welcomed during our stay. Bido, along with seven other villages in Morotai, is being developed as a model for a Surf Protected Area Network. Formally known as a Locally Managed Marine Area (LMMA), these coastal spaces are managed by local communities together with land-owners, partner organizations, and collaborative government representatives. 

Before our arrival to Bido, representatives from our partners A Liquid Future (ALF) and Indonesia Locally Managed Marine Area Foundation (ILMMA) completed training for staff and community members. This training and mapping created a baseline of natural resources and tourism assets to support the long-term protection of this area and network.

In partnership with Conservation International, ILMMA and ALF, Save The Waves is excited to implement a 2020 plan for the Surf Protected Areas in Morotai, with the potential of expanding this work to other regions in Indonesia to increase conservation efforts.

While visiting different parts of the island, we experienced numerous beautiful beaches, surfbreaks and diving spots. With the pristine coral, colorful fishes and abandoned shipwrecks, we recognized the need for our work and the conservation of these wild places.

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The highlight of the trip was an amazing workshop with government representatives and key stakeholders. The workshop included representatives from communities, NGOs, and local planning, tourism, environment and marine management agencies. We had incredible participation and a full endorsement of the Surf Protected Area project. 

By the end of the workshop, the Local and Provincial Government committed to the establishment of a Surf Protected Area in Morotai. The government also committed to the development of environmental protection and sustainable tourism regulations, and the creation of the Morotai Surf and Nature Tourism Working Group.

This trip gave the Surf Protected Area Network in Morotai the institutional support to advance and define the next steps for the creation of the first Coastal Park in Morotai. We were grateful for the commitment of The First Lady of Morotai to mobilize funding and support to create the Morotai Surfing Association and Surf Clubs in several villages within the park. 

We are looking forward to this first collaborative project in Indonesia to support communities and the coasts there!