Thursday, 21 March, 2019

Cendrawasih Bay Whale Shark Diving in West Papua

Cenderawasih Bay (Indonesian: Teluk Cenderawasih, means : Bird of Paradise Bay), also Teluk Sarera (Sarera Bay), formerly Geelvink Bay (Dutch: Geelvinkbaai) is a large bay in northern Province of Papua and West Papua, New Guinea, Indonesia, at 2.5°S 135.3°ECoordinates: 2.5°S 135.3°E. The Dutch name comes from a Dutch ship and family called Geelvinck. The western part of the bay was declared a marine national park in 2002.

Islands in the Bay
West Papua Province:
– Auri Islands archipelago (kepulauan Auri)
– Meos Waar
– Rumberpon
– Roon Island
– Meos Angra

Papua Province:
Biak Islands (aka Schouten archipelago):
– Biak
– Padaido Islands (kepulauan Padaido)
– Numfor
– Yapen
– Mios Num
– Kaipuri
– Supiori
– Amboi Islands
– Kuran Islands
– Moor Islands archipelago (kepulauan Moor) in Cenderawasih Bay

The Wamma River, Tabai River, Warenai River, and Wapoga Rivers empty into it. The Mapia Islands lies to the north, and south of Palau. Bird’s Head Peninsula makes the northwest part of the Bay.

Cenderawasih Bay Marine National Park’s positioning can easily be discerned from the map of Indonesia; it occupies the northern coastal area of West Papua resembling the shape of a large bird’s neck. The marine park encompasses 80 square kilometres, making it the largest in Southeast Asia. There is a huge range of marine life in Cenderawasih Bay Marine National Park comprising of all variations of coral reef; fringing reef, barrier reef, atoll, patch reef, and shallow water reef mound. The fringing reefs are the most abundant and they are indeed the last of the few remaining pristine reefs in the world.

Until in recent time, the bay was geologically isolated from the flow of the Pacific tides; this isolation has somewhat consecrated Cenderawasih with a wide variety of endemic species. Researchers noted the interesting occurrences of many habitually deep-dwelling fish species are found here in relatively shallow water. The wide variation of reef formations along with the resident population of the ocean’s largest fish, the whale shark, prompted Ocean Geographic Honorary Editor Dr. Gerald Allen to call Cenderawasih “the Galapagos of Indonesia’s Reefs”. To date Gerry has discovered five new species of fish, including a new dottyback and garden eel. They current count of fish species has increased from 884 species to 955.

More about Cenderawasih Bay
Location: Southwest quarter of Cendrawasih Bay, Irian Jaya
Status: National Park
Established: September 2, 1993 (Decree of Ministry of Forestry of Republic of Indonesia No. 472/Kpts-II/1993)
Size (km2): 1,453.5
IUCN Category: II
Features: The Park comprises the southwest quarter of Cenderawasih Bay which lies to the east of the isthmus connecting the Vogelkop Peninsula to the mainland. The park falls within the administrative districts of Manokwari and Nabire. Access is by sea from the towns of Manokwari and Nabire, which lie 95 km and 38 km north and east, respectively. Air transport is available from Manokwari, Biak and Nabire.

The reserves support a wide spectrum of relatively undisturbed coastal and marine habitats, of which the extensive coral reefs rank amongst the finest in the world. The marine habitats, particularly contain a number of rare and commercially important species, provide the basis for the local fishing industry and have a high potential for visitor use and research.

The park consist of 80 km2 coral reefs, 1,305.3 km2 seas, 12.4 km2 coastal plain and 55,8 km2 islands bounded by 500 km coastline. The park keeps a wide variety of important marine species, from Scleractinia corals to giant whales. Many of them is endangered (see also CITES lists) and protected by Indonesian law. There are five reef types in the park: fringing reefs, barrier reef, patch reef, atoll and shallow water reef mound. The diversity of Scleractinia coral species in the park is enormous, including Acropora, Porites, Pocillopora and Favites families. Salm et. al. (1982) reported 130 species (62 genus and subgenus). Furthermore, Gilkes and Adipati (1987) reported 145 species of 67 genus of coral. WWF survey in 1997 found 201 species of 64 genus and subgenus.

The steep and incised topography of the western coastal mountains and the Wandamen and Kwatisore peninsulas to the south, reflect their position on the convergence of the Pacific and Australian tectonic plates. Five major reef types are found, of which fringing reefs are the most extensive, bordering most of the mainland coastline and the major continental islands.

The island of the Auri archipelago is composed of a steep-sided patch reef. Reef topography varies from gently shelving shallow water to vertical cliffs 40-5-m in depth. The park includes habitat of Butterfly fishes (Chaetodontidae), Angel fishes (Pomacanthridae), Wrasess (Labridae), Parrot fishes (Scaridae), Surgeon fishes (Acanthuridae), Rabbit fishes (Siganidae), Trigger fishes (Balistidae) and other reef fishes. Gilkes and Adipati (1987) recorded 209 fish species in the park, while the 1984 survey (WWF/KSDA/YPMD/Fisheries) recorded 305 species. WWF survey in 1997 recorded 208 fish species. Sharks and rays also inhabits the park, including White-tip reef shark (Triaenodon obesus) and Black-tip reef shark (Charcariuns melanopterus). Economic valued fishes inhabits the park includes Lethrinidae, Lutjanidae, grouper (Serranidae), trevally (Carangidae), mackerel (Scomberomorussp.), skipjack tuna (Katsuwonus sp.) and tuna (Eythunnus sp.)

Gilkes and Adipati (1987) recorded 196 species of molluscs, includes 153 gastropods, 40 bivalves and 2 cephalopods. There are six species of Tridacna clams found in the park: giant clam (Tridacna gigas), small giant clam (T. maxima), southern giant clam (T. derasa), scaly clam (T. squamosa), boring clam (T. crocea) and bear’s paw clam (Hippopus hippopus). The largest giant clam recorded in the park reached 1.5 in diameter. There are also some gastropods such as triton trumpet (Charonia tritonis), horned helmet (Cassis cornuta) and top shell lola (Trochus niloticus) as well as rare green snail (Turbo armoratus). Other snails such as cowries (Cyprea sp.), stormbid (Lambis sp.) and cone shell (Conus sp.) are abundant in the sea floor.

The park includes nesting habitat for green turtle (Chelonia mydas) and hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata). The leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) and olive ridley turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea) are known to feed in the bay. The islands of Nusambier, Iwari, Kuwom, Matas and Wairundi and several mainland beaches have been recorded as turtle nesting beaches. In some beaches, sea crocodile (Crocodylus porosus) is sometimes found.

The park also includes feeding habitat of three sea mammals, Dugong (Dugong dugon), dolphin (Delpinus delphis) and whale. According to Salm et. al.(1982), dugong inhabit the sea grass bed in the southern coast of Mios Waar island as well as some mainland beaches. In 1982 aerial survey, 13 dugongs found in the west coast of the park.

Coconut crab (Birgus latro) is the largest living terrestrial arthropod (Helfman, 1979in Salm et. al., 1982). Carapace reaches to 30 cm. Hothius (1959, 1963) in Salm et. al.(1982) reported that some islands of Wairundi, Nukup and Auri is the habitat of the crab. Islanders of the park called Manggaperba.

Over exploitation of marine resources, such as turtles and giant clams by local and itinerant fishermen is a serious problem throughout the park. Particularly badly affected is the Tridacna Reef where the giant clam population has been decimated. Other serious problems are the use of explosives by itinerant fishermen, which have degraded large areas of reef, and loss of vegetation on several of the Auri islands due to the felling of Casuarina for fuel. This has resulted in soil erosion and loss of nesting bird habitat.

About the Whale Shark (Rhincodon typus)
It is the biggest fish in the sea, a charismatic marine megafauna that brings excitement and adventure to dive enthusiasts as it supports thriving tourism industries in Ningaloo Marine Park in Australia, Belize, Philippines, Mexico, Seychelles, and Christmas Island. Unfortunately, the planet’s largest fish is on the verge of extinction. Whale sharks are extremely vulnerable to over exploitation by man for several reasons. They have a slow growth rate, only reaching maturity at around 30 years old and living as long as 60 – 100 years. Their reproduction rate is also very slow – long intervals between pregnancies. In Taiwan and India documented catches have declined from the 1980’s to 2000’s.

Teluk Cenderawasih National Park is the largest marine national park of Indonesia, located in Cenderawasih Bay, south-east of Bird’s Head Peninsula. It includes the islands of Mioswaar, Nusrowi, Roon, Rumberpon and Yoop.The park protects a rich marine ecosystem, with over 150 recorded coral species, for which it is considered a potential World Heritage Site.

Flora and fauna
Parrotfish, one of over 200 fish species recorded in the National Park.

Extending over 14,535 km², the national park includes coastal and mangrove ecosystems (0.9%), coral reefs (5.5%), island tropical forest ecosystems (3.8%), and marine waters (89.8%). Some 46 species of plant have been recorded on the islands, dominated by Bruguiera and Avicennia species, Nypa fruticans, Metroxylon sagu, Casuarina equisetifolia, and Terminalia catappa.

The coral reef ecosystem forms part of the Coral Triangle region. In the park, 150 species of coral have been recorded, consisting of 15 families and distributed on the shores of 18 islands. Among these are colonies of Blue coral, Black coral, Leptoseris species, Mycedium elephantotus, and Alcyonacea or soft corals. The percentage of live coral coverage varies from between 30-40% to 64-65%.

Over 200 fish species inhabit the park, among them Butterflyfish, Damselfish, Parrotfish, Rabbitfish, Clownfish and Sharks. Species of mollusc include Cowry, Strombidae, Lambis species, Charonia tritonis, and Giant clam.

Four species of turtle are common in the park: the Hawksbill turtle, Green turtle, Olive Ridley turtle, and Leatherback turtle. Mammals include Dugong, Blue whale and Dolphins.

Human habitation
About 14,000 people live in 72 villages within the park. Several Austronesian languages are spoken in the area, which form part of the Cenderawasih languages branch and include: Wandamen, Dusner, Meoswar, Roon and Yeretuar.Most of the park is part of Teluk Wondama Regency of West Papua province, while the eastern part is in Nabire Regency of Papua province.

In 1990, the area was designated as Teluk Cendrawasih Marine Nature Reserve. The National Park was designated in 1993 and declared in 2002. The park is managed by Balai Taman Nasional with a personnel of 106.

Filed in: Cendrawasih Bay, West Papua