How do you Transform a Shark-Finning Camp into a Nursery for Baby Sharks?
March 8, 2017
We are proud to partner with the Misool Foundation!
By: Jo Marlow
In 2005, explorers and visionaries Marit and Andrew Miners were diving in remote Raja Ampat, Indonesia amongst the richest reefs in the world. Their journey took them to a beach where they discovered an active shark-finning camp. Jarred by the tranquility experienced underwater in contrast to the brutal killing taking place at the surface, they made a pact to protect the exceptional ecosystem from poachers.
The Miners had very little applicable experience, no significant financial backing, limited language skills, and more than a few skeptical and vocal nay-sayers. What they had in abundance was energy, blissful naïveté, a passion for nature, and a steadfast belief in the ability of one small group to manifest change.
Together with a small group of maverick conservationists, passionate individuals, and dedicated locals, the team began building a resort named Misool which would fund the conservation work they all believed in. The first major project was to haul the abandoned logs out of the surrounding beaches to build the resort from reclaimed wood. They used our portable sawmill, affectionately called ‘Lucy,’ to mill each and every piece of wood used in the construction of the resort. The first concrete foundations were poured for the Dive Centre in late July 2006.
The project was no easy task. The crew experienced poor nutrition, bad hygiene (all the fresh water was used to make cement), isolation without internet and a patchy satellite phone which often required standing in chest-deep water to get a signal, and an incredible amount of stress. They lived the project for two and a half years in one of the most remote and challenging locations imaginable. Throughout the enormous undertaking, they kept their founding goal in mind. Marit Miners remarks:
“The patrol of the Misool Marine Reserve started in a little plastic dinghy after a day’s construction work, chasing down Javanese long-liners by throwing pebbles at them. We fought hard to expel recalcitrant shark-finners from our area. We hassled intruders and confiscated their gear until they just didn’t bother coming back.”
“One night, we stayed at the resort while our staff went out on their own to intercept poachers,” Marit continued. They returned to the resort with three shark fishing boats and swiftly took the reins, explaining to the fishermen why protected areas are important, and the function sharks serve in the ecosystem. They had reached a turning point in which their help was no longer needed. From that moment on, the resort has been exclusively locally staffed.
Misool finally opened its doors in in 2008 and today, after 12 years of hard grit and perseverance, it’s considered a conservation success story. Rather than the corpses of sharks littering the white sand, baby sharks swim freely in the shallow waters around the resort and there are 25 times more sharks inside Misool’s Marine Reserve than directly outside of it. The Reserve spans an area of 300,000 acres or 1220 square km which is about twice the size of Singapore! The Misool Ranger Patrol employees 15 local rangers and operates five patrol boats from four different ranger stations. Since the units patrol the area around the clock every single day of the year, fishing and marine-life extraction of any kind is successfully banned.
This is just the beginning for our team. From a community recycling program processing two tons of trash every day to solar farms and drone technology, our commitment to the unique marine ecosystems of Indonesia is stronger than ever. Our story is one of regular folks joining forces to leave the world better off than we found it and our greatest hope is to inspire others to do the same.