Indonesia Gears Up For Research In Unexplored Deep Sea

Jakarta  (Antara News) - Indonesia is the biggest archipelagic country in the world, with around 70 percent of its territory is waters and it has around 17,480 islands.

Indonesias future basically lies in oceans expected to help sustain food security. A lot of researches and economic-related activities have been carried out in shallow seas, while deep sea is mostly still unexplored and hides mysteries waiting for being revealed.

The Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) recently announced that it would intensify deep sea research in eastern Indonesian waters.

The researchs findings could give significant contribution to the worlds marine science, LIPI Chairman Lukman Hakim said in Ambon, Maluku, recently.

For that purpose, LIPI has upgraded the status of Ambons marine biota conservation office into a Deep Sea Research Center for eastern Indonesia that consists of vast and unexplored deep seas.

The agency has also improved the facilities and infrastructure to carry out deep sea research, and increased the number of researchers and administrative staff in Ambon.

Hakim recalled that the then president Soekarno had planned to set up the largest oceanography institute in Southeast Asia, in Ambon, Maluku Province, with the assistance of Russia. But the plan had been cancelled due to the communist coup in 1960s. In 1971, LIPI set up a research station in Ambon and upgraded its status into a marine resource research office in 1998.

Hakim stated that his institute needed more research vessels for sophisticated deep-sea research, following the status upgrade of the Ambon Marine Biota Conservation Office to LIPIs Deep-sea Research Center.

Indonesia needed to build research vessels of international standards, he reiterated.

According to Chairman of the LIPIs Oceanographic Research Center Zainal Arifin, such sophisticated research vessels should be available within the next five years.

Currently, LIPI has two modern research vessels: Baruna Jaya VII built by the Indonesian ship building manufacturer, PT PAL and Baruna Jaya VIII made in Norway.

Malukus waters is a foundation of Indonesias marine science because of its abundant marine biota, according to Head of the Ambon Marine Resource Research office Augy Syahalaitua.

The agency will use research vessels equipped with multibeam echosounders capable of reaching a depth of six thousand meters for exploring the eastern Indonesian deep ocean.

The research vessels also had oceanographic technologies to measure temperature, salinity, and chemical parameters at a minimal depth of five thousand meters, Augy Syagalaitua said recently.

The price of one well-equipped research vessel is about Rp250 billion, he remarked.

Long-range research cruises were needed because many Exclusive Economic Zone (ZEE) locations were not yet studied or explored, he added. "We will also prepare the necessary human resources for the ZEE research for the next 10 to 20 years," he affirmed.

Maluku Governor Said Assagaff has hailed the status upgrade of the Ambon marine biota conservation office, because deep sea research is very important for Maluku to support the fishery industry and strengthen the maritime and fishery school in the province.

One percent of the provinces total budget would go to the local development and planning office (Bappeda) for research activities, the governor said.

Research was costly but the regional development needed to be supported by strong researches and studies, Said Assagaff said recently when receiving LIPI CHairman.

Sulawesis deep sea in eastern Indonesia, was in fact explored during a joint oceanic expedition dubbed INDEX-SATAL 2010 by the United States and Indonesia, from June to August 2010.

The joint expedition was staged from two ships: the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)s Okeanos Explorer and the Indonesian Agency for Assessment and Application of Technology (BPPT)s research vessel Baruna Jaya IV, and at Exploration Command Centers (ECCs) ashore.

At least 32 scientists and technicians both on the ships and on shore carried out exploratory investigations on the diversity and distribution of deep sea habitats and marine life in unknown ocean areas in SATAL - a contraction of Sangihe and Talaud - two island chains stretching northeast of North Sulawesi, Indonesia.

Some 79 new species were found in East Indonesian waters during the deep seas explorations.

"Indonesian waters are home to more marine biodiversity than anyplace else in the world. We explore together to better understand, use, and protect the ocean and its resources," Dr Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., US under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA Administrator, said when launching the joint expedition in July 2010.

The then maritime affairs and fisheries minister Fadel Muhammad in January 2011 said the joint oceanic expedition had yielded results of benefit to both countries.

The minister said Indonesia had gained a lot of benefit from the expedition because now it did not have to start from "zero" when exploring its deep sea waters.  (*)