Feature Story

Coral Reefs for Tomorrow

December 1, 2015

Underwater shot of coral reef near North Sulawesi, Indonesia
Off North Sulawesi, Indonesia, a plethora of small, colorful fish (Pseudanthias sp.) swim in a current passing over a coral reef.

Indonesia has nearly one-eighth of the world’s coral reefs, some 75,000 km2. Coral reef ecosystems serve as essential habitat for many commercially valuable fish species. Coral reefs support artisanal subsistence fishing, commercial fisheries, aquaculture, live reef fish for food industry, recreational fishing, aquarium/marine ornamental trade, and the curio and fashion industries. Coral reef ecosystems account for 30% of Indonesia’s GDP and generate employment for about 20 million people in 67,500 coastal villages (ADB, 2012a). Reefs also provide an effective natural barrier against wave erosion (UNEP WCMC, 2006; Van Lavieren et al., 2012), thereby protecting coastal dwellings, agricultural lands and tourist beaches. Altogether, an estimated $1.6B per year of net economic benefits can be derived from the coral reefs in Indonesia, mainly through fisheries, coastal protection, and tourism (Burke et al., 2002). Despite these benefits, two-thirds of Indonesia’s coral reefs are at risk due to pollution, overfishing, destructive fishing practices, mining, and coastal development (ADB, 2013).

In May, 1998, in order to improve the management of coral reefs and promote sustainable use of marine resources, the GEF, together with the Government of Indonesia and the World Bank, launched the GEF/IBRD Coral Reef Rehabilitation and Management Project (COREMAP I). This project ran from 1998-2004 at an experimental site in Sumatra, Indonesia. The project focused on raising awareness of the importance of sustainable, non-destructive fishing practices to coral reef conservation, and therefore saw high levels of community involvement. The project was a success: illegal fishing practices decreased by more than 50% and fishermen began using reef-friendly fishing gear. The initial investment also firmly established a strong policy, strategic, and legal framework that both enabled community-based coral reef management in Sumatra, and laid a solid foundation from which the COREMAP Program would evolve.

A second project phase, COREMAP II (2004- 2011), continued with an objective to replicate and improve upon the community-based management scheme to eight districts in Indonesia — Batam, Bintan, Lingga, Natuna, Nias, Nias Selatan, Taanuli Tengah and Mentawai. At a national level, the project led to the drafting of a law that prohibits coral mining and destructive fishing practices. At a local level, the project helped governments develop regulations targeted at ensuring more sustainable management of coral reefs. In order to implement these new policies, COREMAP had a strong focus on community empowerment and provided formal training in coral reef management to more than 8,500 citizens. This training included monitoring and survey techniques to assess coral reef health as well as how to investigate and deal with illegal activities. The development, implementation, and enforcement of these new policies contributed to a 9.4% average annual growth rate of coral cover in all project sites (ADB, 2012b). Furthermore, COREMAP enhanced community welfare and livelihoods by providing alternative income and employment opportunities for fishing and non-fishing communities. Overall, this investment reinforced the close link that exists between healthy marine ecosystems and potential economic benefits for local communities

Building on these successes, the Government of Indonesia, the World Bank, and the GEF approved a third round of funding to begin the GEF/IBRD Coral Reef Rehabilitation and Management Program: Coral Triangle Initiative Phase III (COREMAP-CTI). COREMAP-CTI will run over a five-year period in seven MPAs across the original COREMAP region, as well as three national MPAs in three new districts in Indonesia. The objective of COREMAP-CTI is to integrate an integrated coastal management approach into government and village programs, and to provide communities incentives and the capacity to sustainably co-manage their coral reefs. This final phase will see a strengthening of MPA management capacities, an enhancement of MPA management effectiveness and biodiversity conservation, and the promotion of sustainable livelihood activities. COREMAP-CTI will also contribute to Indonesia’s country partnership strategy for inclusive growth and environmental sustainability, and is the principle mechanism adopted by the Government of Indonesia to achieve their 2020 target of establishing 20 million hectares of effective MPAs. 

This story was orginally published in "From Coast to Coast: 20 Years of Transboundary Management of our Shared Oceans" in 2015.