We’re excited to announce a new coral reef fisheries module!

Coral reef fishery managers have spoken up, and we heard you! TNC’s Global Fisheries and Reef Resilience have teamed up to bring you the latest coral reef fisheries science and management strategies.

The new Coral Reef Fisheries Module was created through generous funding from partners including WildAid and covers key topics including coral reef fisheries stock assessment methods, tools for managing fisheries, and surveillance and enforcement systems.

You will also find coral reef fisheries case studies describing management challenges and actions taken and helpful summaries on the importance of reef fisheries and what you can do to boost their resilience. Now DIVE IN to explore!

If you are interested in adding a section to the new reef fisheries module, or have comments, questions, or suggestions about Reef Resilience, visit or reach out to the Reef Resilience Team.

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Herbivory And The Resilience Of Caribbean Coral Reefs: Knowledge Gaps And Implications For Management

This paper explores herbivory and how it affects the resilience of coral reefs in the Caribbean. The authors identify important knowledge gaps that limit our ability to predict when herbivores are most likely to support resilience. The authors explore:

  • What processes operate to prevent or facilitate coral persistence and recovery, and how are these influenced by herbivory?
  • What are the independent and combined effects of different species of herbivores in limiting algae and facilitating reef-building corals?
  • What factors limit herbivore populations and the process of herbivory on coral reefs?

The impacts of herbivores on coral reef resilience are likely to be highly context- dependent, thus it is necessary to understand the roles that particular types of herbivores play in limiting harmful algae and facilitating corals under a range of environmental conditions to improve sustainable management of coral reef ecosystems.

The paper provides specific information to guide how to manage herbivore populations to facilitate healthy, resilient coral reefs. The authors present the following management recommendations/guidance:

  • Local management efforts should focus on minimizing direct sources of coral mortality, such as sedimentation and pollution, as well as restoring ecological processes, such as herbivory, that are important for coral persistence and recovery
  • Maintaining healthy herbivore populations is likely to mitigate the negative impacts of ocean warming since abundant herbivores can control algae that inhibit coral recovery following coral decline
  • Better spatial management of fishing could minimize trade-offs between the need to maintain high levels of grazing while supporting sustainable fisheries
  • Implementation of marine protected areas or other spatial restrictions on herbivore fishing will only be effective if we can sustainably manage herbivore populations outside of protected areas. Different species of parrotfishes have different life-history traits and different impacts on benthic communities, thus should not be managed as a single species complex
  • Managers will need to ensure that reefs have the right mix of herbivores to carry out the full set of functions normally performed by the herbivore guild
  • It is critical to protect seagrasses and mangroves, which are important nursery habitats for several species of Caribbean herbivores
  • In cases where degradation has been severe and feedbacks are operating that could slow or prevent coral recovery, management actions targeted specifically at breaking feedbacks that maintain reefs in a degraded state are necessary

Author: Adam, T.C., D.E. Burkepile B.I. Ruttenberg, and M.J. Paddack
Year: 2015
View Full Article

Marine Ecology Progress Series 520:1-20

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New and improved Network Forum

The Reef Resilience Network has launched a new and improved online discussion forum!

Now part of the Reef Resilience website, this interactive online community is a place where coral reef managers and practitioners from around the world can connect and share with others to better manage marine resources.

If you work to protect, manage, or promote coral reefs please join the conversation:

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Designing Marine Reserves for Fisheries Management, Biodiversity Conservation, and Climate Change Adaptation

Coral reef ecosystem goods and services, such as fisheries, are threatened by local and global stressors. Effectively designed and managed marine reserve networks (areas closed to all extractive uses) can reduce local threats and build resilience of coral reefs. This paper reviews recent scientific advances in criteria for designing marine reserve networks to achieve multiple objectives such as fisheries management, conservation, and climate change adaptation. The authors provide integrated guidelines regarding habitat representation, risk spreading, protecting critical habitat, incorporating connectivity, allowing time for recovery, adapting to changes in climate, and minimizing local threats. Integration of marine reserve networks into broader management frameworks is also stressed. Although the guidelines were written for the Coral Triangle region, they can be applied to coral reefs worldwide.

Ecological considerations and guidelines for marine reserve design outlined in the paper include:
Habitat representation: protect 20-40% of each major habitat
Risk spreading: protect at least 3 examples of each major habitat and spread them out
Critical areas: protect critical areas such as fish spawning aggregations, nursery, nesting, breeding, and feeding areas
Incorporating connectivity: apply minimum and variable sizes, 0.5-1 km and 5-20 km across, space reserves 1-15 km apart with smaller reserves closer together
Allowing time for recovery: put reserves in place for 20-40 years or permanently, use periodic closures in addition to long-term protection
Adapting to changes in climate: protect refugia of more resilient habitats
Minimizing local threats: place reserves in areas less likely to be impacted by local threats such as land-based pollution

Author: Green, A.L., L. Fernandes, G. Almany, R. Abesamis, E. McLeod, P.M. Aliño, A.T. White, R. Salm, J. Tanzer, and R.L. Pressey 
Year: 2014
View Abstract
Email for the full article:

Coastal Management 42(2): 143-159. doi:10.1080/08920753.2014.877763

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Global Conservation Outcomes Depend on Marine Protected Areas With Five Key Features

Dr. Graham Edgar and his 24 co-authors stirred up the marine conservation world with their recent article in which they review 87 MPAs at 964 sites (in 40 countries) around the world using data generated by the authors and trained recreational divers. Their overall conclusion is that global conservation targets for the Convention on Biological Diversity, that are solely based on the area of MPAs, do not optimize protection of biodiversity.

They found that effective MPAs (measured by biodiversity, large fish biomass, and shark biomass) needed to have 4 or 5 of the following characteristics: no-take, well enforced, >10 years old, >100 km2 in size, and be isolated by deep water or sand. Only 9 of the 87 MPAs had 4 or 5 of those characteristics, most of the remainder of MPAs were ecologically indistinguishable from non-MPAs. The authors hope that reserves that are serious about biodiversity outcomes will adopt the 5 characteristics (when possible) and quickly see a rapid increase in the potential of a site to have regionally high biomass and species numbers.

Author: Edgar, G.J., R.D. Stuart-Smith, T.J. Willis, S. Kininmonth, S.C. Baker, S. Banks, N.S. Barrett, M.A. Becerro, A.T.F. Bernard, J. Berkhout, C.D. Buxton, S.J. Campbell, A.T. Cooper, M. Davey, S.C. Edgar, G. Försterra, D.E. Galván, A.J. Irigoyen, D.J. Kushner, R. Moura, P.E. Parnell, N.T. Shears, G. Soler, E.M.A. Strain, and R.J. Thomson
Year: 2014
View Full Article

Nature 506: 216–220. doi:10.1038/nature13022

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Indonesia – MPA Management

Management Plan of Wakatobi National Park Leads to Increased Stakeholder Engagement Through Monitoring Efforts

Wakatobi National Park, Southeast Sulawesi, Indonesia

wakatobi 2 Bajo tribal children

Bajo tribal children (Sea gypsies tribe) in Wakatobi National Park, Southeast Sulawesi, Indonesia. The children play with friends and their “koli-koli” (small wooden boat without engine and screen). This is a common daily activity, along with fishing, for bajo children after returning from school. © Marthen Welly/TNC-CTC

The Challenge
Wakatobi is named after the four main islands of Wangi-Wangi, Kaledupa, Tomia, and Binongko, which together with 35 smaller islands comprise the Tukang Besi Archipelago at the southeastern tip of Sulawesi, Indonesia. Located within the Coral Triangle, the area is known for its exceptional coral reef diversity and its marine resources have high economic value, particularly for fisheries. Most of the 100,000 residents of the Wakatobi district depend on the sea for their livelihood. To improve management of the reefs and surrounding waters, 3.4 million acres of islands and waters were declared as the Wakatobi National Park (WNP) in 1996.

In 2003, ecological surveys of the reefs revealed widespread coral damage, primarily from destructive fishing practices (i.e. blast fishing and cyanide fishing) and overfishing. In addition, costal development threatened the coral reef and coastal environment of the area through reclamation and sand and coral mining.

wakatobi 3 reef

Coral reef in Wakatobi Marine National Park of SE Sulawesi, Indonesia. © Burt Jones and Maurine Shimlock/Secret Sea Visions

Actions Taken
To address overfishing and destructive fishing practices in Wakatobi, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) worked with the Wakatobi National Park Authority and a broad range of stakeholders to support implementation of a revised management plan. This work included a revision of the zoning plan through extensive technical advice and consultation with partners. By involving local communities, focusing on collaborative management and building a strong legal foundation for the park’s zoning and enforcement, conservation action at Wakatobi is intended to be environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable.

To address threats to coral reefs from climate change, resilience principles were incorporated into the zoning plan including representation and replication of key habitats in no take zones, and protection of critical habitat like fish spawning aggregations and turtle nesting beaches. A number of scenarios for a multiple-use zoning plan, based upon biological, ecological, and socioeconomic features of the area, were produced and modified based on local community input. In 2007, the Director General of Forest Protection and Nature Conservation of the Ministry of Forestry and the Head of the Wakatobi District formally endorsed the Wakatobi National Park’s Zoning Plan.


Zone types include: a core zone of no-take and no-entry, marine zone of no-take, a tourism zone of no-take which allows for only non-extractive tourism activities, and a traditional use zone dedicated for pelagic fisheries.

wakatobi 4 FRS Menami_01_Resize

Monitoring vessel in Wakatobi National Park. © TNC/WWF

Key aspects of the management plan include an outreach strategy, surveillance and monitoring. The communication campaign for Wakatobi occured at the village level, at the sub-district level, and at the district level. Frequent meetings reflected the level of engagement, which ensured that the Wakatobi National Park, the Wakatobi district government, and the local communities were well informed about the zoning process. Additionally, media messages are distributed through cable TV to support environmental issues, in general. Although challenging, through the communication campaign, the local communities in Wakatobi have become more experienced and knowledgeable about the benefits of MPAs.

The surveillance program of Wakatobi includes three components: WNP rangers, local police, local community, local district fisheries and Wakatobi Marine & Fisheries Agency perform surveillance 10 days/month, using Floating Ranger Stations (FRS) around Wakatobi. Additionally, WNP rangers and police perform incidental patrols, and finally, integrated patrols by WNP rangers, Indonesian Navy, police, and the Wakatobi Marine & Fisheries Agency occur several times each month.

There are many monitoring programs in Wakatobi National Park that assess the effectiveness of the management plan:

  • WNP Rangers and Wakatobi Marine & Fisheries Agency record the details of resource users in the park over several days of surveys each month.
  • During the full moon in peak spawning seasons, Wakatobi National Park Authority staff record the number and species of fish at Fish Spawning Aggregation sites.
  • Every 1-2 years, WNP rangers collect data on the condition of fish populations and coral reefs throughout the park.
  • Opportunistic observations of large marine fauna (whales and dolphins) are recorded on all surveys.
  • During the full moon each month, WNP monitoring teams survey turtle nesting beaches and record the species, size and number of nesting turtles.

Every 2 years, WNP rangers monitor seabird habitat and nesting sites, the mangrove forest, and seagrass meadow. Three surveys have been conducted to evaluate stakeholder’s perceptions on the efficiency of MPA management, and to improve the effectiveness of outreach programs by understanding trends in local perceptions.

How successful has it been?
The outcome of the surveys conduced have led to higher support for the MPA and for the zoning system. For example, one community group on Tomia Island adopted the No-take-zone as their fish bank, and then encouraged local fishers to respect the rules and regulations of the No-take-zone. For this effort the community group (Komunto) won the UN Equator Award in 2010. And in 2012, the Wakatobi National Park received the Man and Biosphere Reserve status for its efforts to embrace nature conservation and sustainable development.

Currently Wakatobi NP possesses one of the best biodiversity monitoring team among all the MPA in Indonesia. The biodiversity health monitoring program informed adaptive management for Wakatobi NP. Although Wakatobi NP’ response has not always been rapid enough to address various challenges, it is encouraging to note that the level of awareness and knowledge of Wakatobi NP rangers and the community has increased significantly to detect threats to their marine ecosystems and fishing grounds. To address these challenges, both the Wakatobi district government and Wakatobi NP authority agreed to create a multistakeholder forum comprising key government agencies, and community representatives to improve coordination and strengthen collaboration among key sectors.

Lessons Learned and Recommendations
Lessons learned and key recommendations include:

  • Stakeholder input from forums with the local community, prior to work in the field, ensures that local community members and the government support the work being done.
  • Extensive work with the local community has enhanced local understanding of MPA benefits, and their need for involvement with Park management.
  • Extensive work with the local government was essential to encourage and advance the shared management regime between the local government and the National Park.
  • Having a solid team, structured work, clear budget allocations, clear tasks and responsibilities among all team members is necessary for an effective project.
  • Extensive monitoring is needed to incorporate comprehensive data analysis, to make sure MPA design and planning align with the biological and ecological characteristics of the area.
  • The Wakatobi National Park and the district government have agreed to form a multi-stakeholder forum to encourage communication among various government agencies and community representatives, promote transparencies, and improve coordination to ensure conservation objectives are implemented to sustain local development.

Funding Summary

Packard Foundation
Margaret A. Cargill Foundation
World Wildlife Fund
The Nature Conservancy

Lead Organizations
TNC-WWF Joint Program
Wakatobi National Park

Ministry of Forestry, Directorate General of Forest Protection & Nature Conservation
Ministry Fisheries & Marine Affairs
Wakatobi District
TNC Indonesia Marine Program
WWF Indonesia Marine Program
Haluoleo University
Indonesian Institute of Science

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Indonesia – MPA Design

Designing a Robust and Resilient Marine Protected Area Network in Lesser Sunda Ecoregion – Indonesia

Lesser Sunda Ecoregion, Indonesia

A scientific design of a resilient network of marine protected areas in the Lesser Sunda Ecoregion, encmpassing 3 provinces and two countries.

A scientific design of a resilient network of marine protected areas in the Lesser Sunda Ecoregion, encompassing 3 provinces and two countries.

The Challenge
At the southern end of the Coral Triangle, the Lesser Sunda Ecoregion stretches from Bali to Timor-Leste, covering an area of more than 450,000 square kilometers. The coral reefs of the region are highly diverse and have high levels of endemism, and six species of endangered sea turtles nest on the beaches of many small islands. This area is a major migratory corridor for cetaceans between the Indian and Pacific Oceans, with 21 species of marine mammal including blue whales and sperm whales recorded. Other large marine species such as dugongs, manta rays and whale sharks are also common in this region.

Lesser Sunda Pygmy Blue Whale

Pygmy blue whale. © Australian Antarctic Division

One of the exceptional features of this region is the steep and dramatic underwater landscape. Just a few kilometers from the coast, the seafloor drops from shallow coral reefs to canyons and seamounts at depths of up to 2000m, creating “deep sea/near shore” habitats. The passage of the Indonesian Throughflow (ocean current) between the narrow channels of the islands generates exceptionally strong currents. Persistent seasonal cold-water upwellings are an important feature of this region and drive the high productivity that supports fisheries and cetacean populations. These could also be a key factor in conferring resilience to the growing threat of rising sea surface temperatures associated with climate change. If properly protected, the Lesser Sunda Ecoregion could become a refuge for marine life and productive fisheries amid global climate change.

Although the islands of the Lesser Sunda are sparsely populated (around 13 million people live on hundreds of islands over thousands of square kilometers, making it one of the least densely populated areas in Indonesia), resource management issues include destructive and overfishing and harvesting of cetaceans and turtles, coastal development and mining. These practices threaten both conservation values and sustainable resource use. Developing an MPA network is one strategy to reduce these threats and, by incorporating principles of resilience, to also address the threat of climate change.

Lesser Sunda Tuna Boats

Tuna boats, Kupang. © Joanne Wilson/TNC

Actions Taken
The Nature Conservancy-Indonesia Marine Program (TNC-IMP) has been working with the national, provincial and district governments, local communities, NGOs and universities since 2006 to design a resilient network of MPAs for the Lesser Sunda Ecoregion. The MPA network design was developed through a process that included both detailed scientific assessment and an extensive stakeholder consultation process. TNC-IMP facilitated workshops on Marine Protected Areas that were attended by more than 1,000 participants, and led technical MPA training initiatives for around 200 participants from national and local government agencies, local universities, marine research institutions, local communities, NGOs, as well as the fishing and tourism industries. The design process included:

  • Development of ecological and socioeconomic MPA network design criteria that include principles of resilience
  • Development of a GIS database that includes the best available information on key conservation features, threats and uses of the area
  • Application of state of the art conservation planning tools (Marxan)
  • Collection of input from government agencies, local stakeholders and scientific experts though a series of workshops and meetings

The design for Lesser Sunda MPA network includes 100 protected areas — 86 coastal reserves and MPAs for coral reefs, mangroves and seagrass that are linked to 14 larger offshore MPAs. The offshore MPAs encompass deep sea habitats important for endangered species such as blue whales. The MPA network design builds on existing and planned MPAs, and identifies additional areas for development of coastal and deep sea MPAs in the future. The network includes:

  • 23 existing terrestrial reserves that are adjacent to the coast and encompass intertidal habitats, such as mangroves or turtles nesting beaches
  • 14 existing MPAs that represent coral reefs, seagrass, mangroves, turtle nesting beaches and associated habitats and species
  • 19 areas that national, provincial or district governments have proposed as MPAs but have not yet been declared
  • 30 additional areas of interest that have been identified for inclusion
  • 14 deep sea areas of interest — three of which encompass transboundary waters between Indonesia and Timor-Leste

Together, the 100 protected areas incorporate all important ecosystems and species.

Key features of the Lesser Sunda MPA network design include:

  • The first resilient MPA network design at the ecoregional level in the Coral Triangle
  • The application of large scale marine spatial planning in a data deficient area which required innovative approaches including: less reliance on computer based decision support tools and more reliance on the use of expert mapping and input from key stakeholders
  • Incorporation of the principles of resilience, including 20% to 30% of each habitat type, protection of key species and habitats, and inclusion of habitats that may be resilient to increasing water temperatures such as areas of upwelling or high temperature variability such as reef flats
  • An extensive stakeholder consultation process including expert mapping exercises, scientific peer review and consultation with relevant government agencies in the region

How successful has it been?
A new MPA, Savu Sea National Marine Park (over 30,000 km²), has been gazetted by the Indonesian Government earlier this year.

The Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries (MMAF) agreed to adopt the design as the primary reference for establishing MPAs in the Lesser Sunda Ecoregion and to include the design in marine and coastal spatial planning at district, provincial and national levels. The scientific design of the Lesser Sunda MPA network and the accompanying information database are excellent resources for central, provincial and district government agencies that have guided their coastal and marine planning in the Lesser Sunda Ecoregion. These products provided a starting point for supporting finer scale site based planning for design and implementation of individual MPAs.

TNC-IMP supports relevant government agencies in the establishment and implementation of Nusa Penida MPA and Savu Sea Marine National Park and is providing training and technical input to policy and MPA design in Timor-Leste.

Lessons Learned and Recommendations
Lessons learned and key recommendations include:

  • Producing a good scientific design for a robust and resilient MPA network is an important step to promote marine conservation in a large marine ecoregion such as the Lesser Sunda.
  • A good scientific design alone will not guarantee marine conservation success or the establishment of MPAs or MPA network.
  • Application of marine spatial planning is expected to address multi-sectoral interests and conflicts of resource use
  • A marine protected area management effectiveness framework must also be developed and introduced across the MPA network to ensure that the MPAs established are managed in high standard and functional to benefit conservation and other development needs in the region.

Funding Summary

MacArthur Foundation

Lead Organizations
The Nature Conservancy – Indonesia Marine Program

Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries — Indonesia
Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries — Timor-Leste

Lesser Sunda Ecoregion Factsheet (pdf)

Scientific Design of a Resilient Network of Marine Protected Areas — Lesser Sunda Ecoregion, Coral Triangle (pdf)

Indonesia: Lesser Sundas

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