Ultimately, the livelihoods of millions of fishermen residing in the coastal areas depend on resources gathered from the reefs.
Indonesias coral reefs continue to bear the brunt of different human activities or natural causes, such as the rising temperature.
Hence, the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (KKP) has reminded various parties of the importance of protecting coral reefs in various regions, as it is vital to the preservation and sustainability of the nations marine ecosystem.
"Efforts to maintain the marine ecosystem should start from coral reefs," Director General of Sea Spatial Management of the KKP Brahmantya Satyamurti Poerwadi remarked in Jakarta on Friday (Sept 8).
To this end, he said, constantly improving the quality of coral reefs and seagrass beds in the Indonesian waters holds the same significance as ensuring the potential and preservation of fishery resources.
The KKPs Directorate General of Sea Space Management also emphasized the importance of creating large areas for coral reefs, so that they cannot be destroyed but be fully preserved.
Based on the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPIs) data, the latest measurement results through satellite mapping show that Indonesias coral reefs are spread across 25 thousand square kilometers, or some 10 percent of the worlds coral reefs.
According to the monitoring conducted by 1,064 observation stations in 108 locations in Indonesia, some 6.39 percent of the coral reefs at 68 sites are still in a very good condition; 23.4 percent at 249 places are in a good state; 35 percent in 373 spots, fairly good; and 35.15 percent at 374 sites are in a bad condition.
According to LIPIs analysis, the unfavorable conditions are due to bleaching as a result of the rising sea temperature triggered by the El Nino weather phenomenon.
Coral reefs are also damaged due to other human activities, such as transportation or fishing using trawls.
In some areas, environmentalists regretted the recurrence of coral reef destruction as had occurred in the Karimunjawa waters, Jepara District, in Central Java by coal barges.
Deputy of the Indonesia Coralreef Action Network Amiruddin stated during a meeting with Commission B of the Central Java Provincial Legislative Assembly in Semarang on Monday (Sept 9) that more than 1,660 square meters of coral reefs in the Karimunjawa waters were damaged by barge activities.
Meanwhile, environmentalist Gabriel Mahal reported alleged damage to coral reefs in Labuan Bajo, East Nusa Tenggara, caused by sea transportation or tourist transportation vessels.
Mahal said several vessels operating in Labuan Bajo are damaging the coral reefs and affecting the marine habitat.
Despite efforts being made to conserve resources, illegal activities detrimental to coral reefs still continue unabated. These activities are disadvantageous for fishermen.
The Peoples Coalition for Fishery Justice highlighted three key issues causing coral reef damage in Indonesia: illegal fish-catching equipment, coastal reclamation, and mining activities.
The widespread use of trawlers and explosives in the past played a significant role in destroying life in the coral reefs, which are the living habitats of highly profitable coral and ornamental fish species.
When the coral reefs are not healthy, it will affect the number of fish species. Destructive trawlers are still often used despite adequate policies being issued to ban them.
As one of the six Coral Triangle Initiative (CTI) countries, Indonesia has to preserve its coral reefs, as its fishermen have to face the fact that over 35 percent of Indonesias coral reefs are reportedly damaged.
The CTI countries are host to the worlds largest coral reef resources, which sustain the lives of over 120 million people living in the coastal areas of Indonesia, Timor Leste, Papua New Guinea, Malaysia, the Philippines, and the Solomon Islands.
In Indonesia, some 60 million people live along the coastline and entirely depend on the coral reefs for their livelihoods. With such a condition, it is understood that Indonesia is vulnerable to the degradation of coral reefs on which it is highly dependent.
Hence, as part of Indonesias commitment to the CTI, the country in 2010 declared a part of its territorial waters as marine resources conservation areas.
As part of its concrete steps in collaboration with five other CTI countries to preserve the marine resources, Indonesia has set a target of designating up to 20 million hectares as conservation areas by 2020.
The country has 13 million hectares of conservation area. In late 2010, the KKP minister had inaugurated a marine conservation area in Nusa Penida, Bali, in a bid to protect the marine and coastal life as well as to encourage sustainable marine tourism. (*)