Aceh region, Sumatra
Situated off the northern tip of Sumatra, Indonesia, the reefs of Weh and Aceh islands host a high diversity and variety of marine endemic species. Reefs surrounding the islands are subject to prevailing winds and currents. Marine habitats in northern Aceh are managed by a government tourism conservation area (Kawasan Wisata; 207 ha), a traditional Acehnese management area (Panglima Laot; 206 ha) and many lie outside managed areas (>1000 ha) on Weh Island and Aceh Islands (Campbell et al. 2009). The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) is working with local governments and communities to adopt sustainable marine resource practices and innovative management initiatives that will benefit local resource users and help rebuild local communities.
The primary conservation goal in Aceh is to improve both the effectiveness of coral reef management and the condition of coral reef resources themselves. WCS’s Conservation strategies in the Aceh region include:
- Assess coral reefs and identify critical habitats (e.g. spawning areas)
- Assess socioeconomic needs and perceptions of marine resource use and conservation
- Develop community co-management and marine protected area networks
- Build capacity of government and local NGO’s in marine resource management
- Conduct and support marine awareness and education programs in schools
- Assist communities in developing alternative livelihood projects
To gather some of the first comprehensive data on FSAs in the Aceh region, a project was initiated by IUCN and CORDIO in collaboration with WCS Indonesia and local institutions. The aim was to provide vital information on spawning areas that can support further research on reef fish population dynamics and reef resilience, as well as strengthen management of coral reefs and reef resources. The objectives of the project were to:
- Determine which reef fish species form spawning aggregations;
- Determine the specific sites of aggregation formation;
- Determine the seasonal patterns in spawning aggregations by species;
- Determine the level of awareness of spawning aggregations and status of stocks of those species among fishers;
- Sensitize fishers and marine resource personnel in South Asia on reef fish spawning aggregations and their implications to conservation and sustainable fisheries; and
- Provide recommendations for the protection and management of sites of spawning aggregations.
To reach the above objectives, interview surveys were conducted among fishing communities on the island of Weh in northern Aceh. A total of 60 fishers from 7 districts on Weh island were interviewed. Forty seven species of fish were mentioned by fishers as forming possible spawning aggregations. Of the 47 species mentioned by respondents, six species of fish were highly likely to form spawning aggregations in marine waters of Weh Island. The six species include: Bolbometopoton muricatum (Scaridae: Bumpheaded parrotfish), Cepahpholis miniata (Serranidae: Coral grouper) Variola louti (Serranidae: Yellow Edged Lyretail), Cheilinus undulatas (Labridae: Napoleon wrasse), Thunnus albacares (Yellow fin tuna) and Caranx lugubris (Carangidae: Black Jack Trevally).
Results of the community interviews indicate that many fishers possess reliable knowledge of spawning areas, species and times. Possible FSAs were reported from a number of areas on Weh Island inside and outside protected areas. Based on the surveys the following recommendations have been made:
- Field surveys are required to verify the location and timing of the most commonly identified fish spawning areas on Weh Island.
- Workshops with Panglima Laot (traditional community fishery leaders) and government agencies are required to identify targeted marine regulations (e.g. seasonal closures, gear restrictions) that protect fish spawning aggregations from exploitation by artisanal and commercial fisheries.
- Include FSAs in the design of a network of MPAs for the northern Aceh Islands.
- Fisher interviews are only a first step to identifying fish spawning areas;
- Once high priority sites are identified through community knowledge, field based surveys are required to validate fisher perceptions;
- SPAGs are critical habitats for marine management interventions including no take areas and controls of fishing gears;
- Communities of Aceh are responsive to community led management interventions but they require support from local stakeholders and government agencies to implement such controls.
Campbell et al. 2008a. Reef Fish Spawning Aggregations in Aceh, Sumatra: Local Knowledge of Occurrence and Status (download pdf, 320k)
Campbell et al. 2008b. Fishing Controls, Habitat Protection and Reef Fish Conservation in Aceh (download pdf, 640k)