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Eyes On The Reef

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Eyes on the Reef – Megafauna Monitoring

Our location on the southern coast of Gam Island sees us situated in the heart of a Marine Protected Area, and an area also designated as a shark sanctuary. The establishment of these zones has been so far very successful in protecting the area, and aiding the recovery of those species impacted by unsustainable fishing practices during the 90s and 00s. One of the most effective ways to maintain and sustain these existing conservation efforts is to identify and demonstrate their effectiveness; for example demonstrating ecological improvement, population recovery or increasing biomass within the marine protected area. Our Megafauna Sightings Database successfully demonstrates this effectiveness by using the simple method of recruiting recreational divers as a sampling tool. During the high season, Papua Explorers Resort accommodates up to 30 guests at a time (plus dive guides and crew) diving  3 times a day in and around the Marine Park region. This represents a wonderful opportunity to collect valuable data; at the end of every dive guests are invited to record sightings of key species (incl 10 species of sharks and 13 species of rays). This data is then compiled into a database and compared against variables such as location, conditions, and tourism intensity (boats and people). This simple and effective system of recording megafauna sightings after each dive enables us to:

Demonstrate the effectiveness of the marine park/shark sanctuary, and the value of MPAs and ‘no take zones’.
Directly link the effectiveness the MPA (i.e. number of sightings) to the main economy in the area – profit generated by dive tourism

The compiled data is then periodically presented to the local government and Marine Park authorities and serve as a tool to detect abnormal trends or identify areas and sites in needs of better management. For instance, the first 10 months of data (1000 dives) could illustrate well the negative impact overcrowding could have on some of the main manta dive sites found in the region.


To demonstrate effectiveness of MPAs, and evaluate species diversity against variables such as seasonality, location, tourism & boat traffic

Since a Shark Sanctuary was established in 2007, and shark finning and destructive fishing practices terminated, populations have recovered rapidly. This ban on shark fishing enabled populations to recover, and the area now sustains a healthy population of sharks, which ultimately results in the entire coral reef ecosystem being balanced and healthy.  Through our sampling efforts we hope to be able to detect increases and/or stability in the number and diversity of shark sightings, thus demonstrating the continued effectiveness and value of a shark sanctuary.

Targets 2018 – 2019

Replicate & Expand

Over the coming 12 months we intend to expand this project in order to cover a wider geographical area and obtain a larger data set, thus giving us further understanding of the megafauna in the wider Raja Ampat region.  We will expand this project through collaboration with other dive operators, including liveaboards; participants will be trained in the data collection and methodology, and be able to add their sightings into the existing database. With appropriate funding and fundraising we aim to develop a mobile application that will enable better standardisation as well as real time data entry. The application will allow local dive professionals as well as diving visitors to collect valuable information about the megafauna of Raja Ampat.

Project Status 2018

Participation in the 2nd Indonesian Shark & Ray Symposium in Jakarta

Indonesian Shark & Ray Symposium in Jakarta and presented on this project, attracting interest from other field scientists and NGOs. In summary; Indonesia/The Coral Triangle has the richest waters in the world with respect to shark and ray populations, yet it also suffers from the greatest threats to these populations; from overfishing/unsustainable/illegal fishing practice, pollution & mass tourism. Globally, 25% of all shark & ray species are threatened with extinction, whereas in Indonesia 35% are threatened with extinction, Indonesia also has the smallest percentage of shark/ray species considered to be NOT under threat.  Although few in number, it was inspiring to spend 2 days amongst the passionate, knowledgeable and driven people in this field, and we look forward to collaborating with these amazing people in order to contribute to the conservation of Sharks & Rays in our corner of the world – Raja Ampat; one of the few places left where elasmobranch populations have been showing positive signs of recovery.

Project Status 2017

1000 Recorded Dives – What the data tells us

By utilising Papua Explorers guests as citizen scientists, who record sightings after every dive, we are able to obtain a valuable scientific data set.  This data displays total species count, max sightings in single dive, probability of an encounter, number present at particular dive site and species diversity. Click here for full infographic

Eyes on the Reef Video Gallery

A Rare Feeding Display – Brydes Whales

White Manta – Blue Magic.  Another rare encounter!

Other Projects

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