Nur Yasmin, Jakarta – The Indonesian Institute of Sciences has recommended that the government employ more measures to protect biodiversity in some of the archipelago's remotest islands, after launching an expedition to eight out of 111 remote Indonesian islands in the South Pacific Ocean where they found unique and rare marine lives.
"We are very lucky to have reached these remote islands, right on our border. We never saw an ecosystem like it in other islands – all kinds of fish, even very rare ones," team coordinator I Wayan Eka Dharmawan said.
The expedition team, which spent 60 days on the islands, also shot a documentary film titled "Nusa Manggala Expedition: The Tale of Indonesia's Eight Remotest Islands," that had its premiere in Jakarta on Thursday.
The self-made documentary film shows the landscape and biodiversity on the eight remote islands – Yiew, Budd, Fani, Brass and Fanildo, Liki, Bepondi, Meossu and Ayau – located near Raja Ampat, a famous tourist destination in Papua, and also the current lack of protection for their ecosystem.
"We had three goals for the expedition: look for potential natural resources, examine existing infrastructure on the islands and map the socio-cultural system of the islands' inhabitants since they live so far off the grid and are often unreachable," LIPI head Laksana Tri Handoko said on Wednesday.
The expedition team comprised 55 scientists from various scientific disciplines including ecology, geomorphology and anthropology.
Team leader Muhammad Hafizt said the scientists had very little clue about what they were going to to face on the islands.
"We were a bit worried about the safety aspect. Yiew Island, for example, had only cliffs, so we couldn't even set anchor there," Hafizt said.
The head of the expedition, Udhi Eko Hernawan, said the team's findings will be processed by the National Border Management Agency and sent to the government along with policy recommendations.
"The government needs to pay more attention to these remote islands, show its presence there. And we've only been to eight out of the 111 islands so far," Udhi said.
He said LIPI's recommendations will include conservation of the islands' natural resources, more infrastructure on the islands to show the government's presence and social protection.
"We need to set up preventive measures before tourists visit these islands and exploit them. We need to protect the marine biodiversity in the area," Udhi said.
Indonesia expects to have 30 million hectares of marine conservation area by 2030. So far it already has 20 million hectares.
LIPI is planning to launch similar expeditions to other islands in the Indian Ocean and the Banda Sea, and also a deep ocean expedition, next year.