1st Edition
2nd Edition of Marine Protected Areas for Whales, Dolphins and Porpoises
Book reviews
Directory of cetacean protected areas around the world
MPAs with management plans
Critical habitat
Treaties, Conventions and Agreements
MPA abbreviations and acronyms
Resources, downloads and links
This independent site is supported by:

 Region number is required. 

 MPA number is required. 
Advanced MPA search

1st Edition of Marine Protected Areas for Whales, Dolphins and Porpoises

Case study: A place for cetaceans in Komodo National Park, proposed for expansion

In 1980, the Government of Indonesia decided to create the Komodo National Park to celebrate the unique Komodo dragon and the rich diversity of the area. In 1986, the park was declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and World Heritage Site. National and provincial governments share jurisdiction over the park. There are numerous laws and regulations that are effectively part of this protected area including: (1) some 33 national and regional laws, regulations and decrees pertaining to national parks (11 laws, 14 government regulations, 4 presidential decrees and 4 decrees of the Minister of Forestry); (2) seven laws and regulations pertaining specifically to Komodo National Park; and (3) ten legal regulations pertaining to the Komodo dragon. The key laws relating to the protection of cetaceans and cetacean habitat are listed in the Table. Since 1995, The Nature Conservancy (TNC), following a request from the Ministry of Forestry, has assisted the Komodo National Park Authority with the preparation of a marine resource management plan as part of the process of developing the 25-year park management master plan. There have been extensive public consultations at the national, regional and local levels on the management plans and protected area zonations. In 2000, the plan was approved by the Indonesian government and it is now being implemented.

Cetacean surveys in the Komodo National Park began in April 1999 and are being conducted twice a year during the inter monsoon periods of April–May and September–October. The surveys address several park management priorities regarding cetaceans:

  • to identify cetacean species and establish the abundance of their populations in the park and adjacent waters;
  • to identify resident and transient populations including seasonal sighting patterns;
  • to identify critical habitats, including preferred feeding and breeding habitats and migration corridors;
  • to provide site and species information on the park’s cetaceans for marine resource and management purposes, to assist in environmental awareness and educational programmes, and to help support the park’s marine tourism and dive industry;
  • to examine the major local and regional environmental impacts that threaten eastern Indonesia’s whales and dolphins;
  • to evaluate protective measures which can be implemented by park management authorities to minimize environmental impacts on cetacean habitats;
  • to involve local communities, dive operators and tour guides to help monitor cetacean activity; and
  • to share the survey results with the Indonesian park authorities, environmental groups and local communities.

Some research, such as work on pygmy Bryde’s whales and sperm whales, features more detailed photo-ID and biopsy research. As a result of these studies, several whale and dolphin conservation measures have been incorporated in the park’s 25-year management plan and are currently being implemented:

  • the extension of the park’s boundaries to shelter a wider variety of marine life;
  • the creation of buffer zones to protect key migration routes;
  • the training of a local cetacean team consisting of TNC field staff and park rangers to conduct periodic monitoring and survey activities; and
  • additional regulations to prohibit activities inside the park that may harm migrating whales and dolphins, such as destructive fishing methods, gill and drift netting, as well as blasting and cyanide.

‘The blasting activities,’ according to researcher Benjamin Kahn, ‘have been significantly reduced within Komodo National Park due to the site conservation programme activities by the park authority, assisted by TNC. Nonetheless, reef bombing has been observed and heard underwater during several survey periods, especially in areas outside KNP, and this illegal fishing practice is considered a serious threat to KNP’s whales and dolphins, with possible regional conservation implications.’ Kahn says that the potential impacts of bombing in close proximity to sensitive cetacean habitats range from

(1) fatal exposure to high pressure waves resulting from the blast,
(2) permanently reduced sensory capabilities due to non-fatal exposure,
(3) acoustic masking of environmental cues,
(4) long-term abandonment of important habitats and
(5) long-term alteration of migration routes.

Reef bombing can also present a threat to the coral reef ecosystems. Other threats are plastic and chemical pollution, poaching, severe exploitation of resources in surrounding areas which puts pressure on the park, and future mining activities and oil exploration. Finally, there are some problems with provincial boundary jurisdictions.

The research showing the habitat needs of cetaceans in Komodo National Park is reported in various papers from Benjamin Kahn and his colleagues. Recently, the research programme has expanded from the rapid ecological assessments to include several focused ecological studies on Indonesia’s resident and migratory cetaceans, especially in the Alor-Solor region, Bali and northern Sulawesi.

In 1982, at the first World Parks Congress (held in Bali), Indonesia began working towards the goal of establishing 39,000 sq mi (100,000 sq km) in MPAs by 2000. This would only be 1.7 per cent of Indonesia national waters; still, it was an ambitious start. In 1984, Indonesian MPAs were described by Soegiarto and his colleagues as designed for ‘controlled development of the marine environment, sustainable utilization of Indonesia’s diverse marine resources and protection of habitats critical to the survival of commercially valuable, endangered, vulnerable and other selected marine species’. Indonesia’s 200+ million population and an expanding national economy have placed increasing pressure on national waters and the emphasis of Indonesia’s protected area programme has been to provide measured access to marine resources on a sustainable basis. Assessing the progress after a decade, Kelleher et al (1995) reported that most Indonesian MPAs partially or generally fail to meet management objectives and require management support, including more funding, local research, community environmental education and more trained managers, park naturalists and scientists.

In the late 1990s, two things happened which would have an important impact on the future of MPAs in Indonesia. The first was the mass bleaching of the coral reefs in 1998. This unforeseen environmental event caused the disintegration of many coral reefs in highly protected core zones and many reefs have not recovered. Unfortunately, a side effect of this event was that management resources allocated toward the core zones could not be shifted to areas or regimes where they could be of most benefit. An adaptive management strategy, with rapid reaction time, is now being planned, which would include a broader understanding of managing ecosystems (not just managing for coral reefs, seagrasses or other individual features alone) in order to make MPAs more resilient and ecologically functional in the long run.

The second crucial MPA development has been the decentralization of management which has allowed individual MPAs, and the NGOs working with them, to take more control of MPA management and their future mission. Instead of management from a single national institution, the Department of Forestry, Indonesia has seen the establishment of a collaborative management framework through the integration of park authorities, local communities, NGOs and the private sector. This initiative is now being realized in the national parks of Bunaken, Wakatobi and Komodo. In December 2003, Bunaken Marine National Park, in recognition of its success in developing sustainable marine tourism under the new management framework, was awarded the top prize at the British Airways Tourism for Tomorrow Awards.

As of January 2004, about 18,000 sq mi (46,000 sq km) have been gazetted and partly managed in MPAs. The main ecological criteria used for MPA site selection has been the presence of coral reefs, mangroves, seagrass beds, turtle nesting beaches and coastal bird habitat. No MPAs have been established for the protection of cetaceans. It has only been by good fortune that some Indonesian MPAs, such as Komodo, Bunaken and Wakatobi, are large enough that they have been found, in the last few years, to contain cetacean habitat. In all, four existing and two proposed MPAs (or land national parks with a marine component) are known to have cetacean habitat. However, according to Ketut Sarjana Putra, Director of the Marine Program at WWF Indonesia, a further ten existing or formally proposed MPAs have portions of cetacean habitat and could offer significant protection for cetaceans, if their boundaries were to be expanded (see Cetacean Habitat Directory for MPAs and Sanctuaries, under Indonesia). First of all, rapid ecological assessments are needed to determine cetacean presence and distribution, such as are described for the Komodo National Park. Following that, more fine-grained cetacean habitat studies can be conducted to determine the precise habitat needs of the various populations and to suggest modifications of MPA boundaries.

Type: Existing national park with nearshore, pelagic and island components; biosphere click to view full sizereserve and world heritage area; now proposed for expansion.

Location: Eastern part of Nusa Tenggara island chain, just west of the island of Flores, between the Flores Sea and the Sumba Strait, Indonesia.

Cetacean species
Cetacean species:

  • Common or abundant in months surveyed – April, May, October: spinner dolphin, Stenella longirostris; bottlenose dolphin, Tursiops truncatus; pantropical spotted dolphin, Stenella attenuata.
  • Uncommon in April, May, October: Fraser’s dolphin, Lagenodelphis hosei; Risso’s dolphin, Grampus griseus; melon-headed whale, Peponocephala electra; sperm whale, Physeter macrocephalus; pygmy Bryde’s whale, Balaenoptera edeni; and other rorqual species.
  • Rare: pygmy and dwarf sperm whales, Kogia spp; pygmy killer whale, Feresa attenuata; false killer whale, Pseudorca crassidens; common dolphin, Delphinus spp; rough-toothed dolphin, Steno bredanensis; Cuvier’s beaked whale, Ziphius cavirostris; blue whale, Baleanoptera musculus; orca, Orcinus orca.

Additional species and other features
Additional species and other features: Rich fish habitat features 900–1000 fish species including spawning aggregations of regional conservation importance. There are two manta ray, Manta birostris, aggregations. There are some 70 sponge species and 253 reef-building coral species from 70 genera within the park and at nearby Banta Island. Hawksbill turtles, Eretmochelys imbricata, and green turtles, Chelonia mydas, use park beaches as nesting sites. There is a mix of coastal and marine habitat including mangrove forests, coral reefs, seagrass beds, with extraordinary diversity on adjacent land areas. Species include the Komodo dragon, Varanus komodoensis; Timor deer, Cervus timorensis; water buffalo, Bubalus bubalus; wild boar, Sus scrofa; and the long-tailed or crab-eating macacques, Macaca fascicularis.

Size of designated protected area
Size of designated protected area: 701 square miles (1817 sq km), including 469 square miles (1,214 sq km) of marine waters and 232 square miles (603 sq km) of land (includes Komodo, Rinca, Padar and various smaller islands).

Size of proposed extension
Size of proposed extension: 9.6 square miles (25 sq km) of land (Banta Island) and 184.9 square miles (479 sq km) of marine waters. This extension would bring the total surface area protected to 896 square miles (2321 sq km).

Rationale: To protect rare, unique Komodo dragon and the rich diversity of land and marine species. According to recent surveys, the park also contains cetacean feeding areas, mating and breeding grounds and areas frequented by migrating cetaceans. Park waters are part of the important corridor between the Pacific and Indian oceans. Proposed extension would specifically help protect more cetacean habitat.

MPAs and cetaceans in Indonesia

The world’s largest archipelagic state, Indonesia has within its national waters one of the world’s most biologically diverse areas. As the gateway between the Indian and the equatorial Pacific Ocean, the deep passages between the islands are used by migrating cetaceans and other large, often migratory marine life. The waters around the islands also provide habitat for feeding, mating and calving cetaceans. Indonesia’s national waters, to the limits of its EEZ, are 2.2 million sq mi (5.8 million sq km), two-thirds the size of Australia’s vast national waters.

Table. Indonesian laws regarding cetaceans and cetacean habitat

A summary of the Indonesian legislation pertaining to cetaceans and cetacean habitat is presented below.




Source: Courtesy, Benjamin Kahn and Ketut Sarjana Putra

Back to 1st Edition Topics