‘Timai’ Ritual for conservation

The traditional community of Misool Island, Raja Ampat, West Papua, affirmed its commitment to the conservation of marine resources by declaring the Communal Zone of the Southeast Misool Marine Protected Area (MPA) in Yellu village, Misool Island.

The Southeast Misool MPA is the largest part of the Raja Ampat marine protected area network. It covers 366,000 hectares and is situated in the Coral Triangle Zone, which is the world center of marine biological diversity.

The declaration, facilitated by The Nature Conservancy (TNC) by involving the Raja Ampat regional administration, was marked by a custom ritual called timai, which is a traditional ceremony to honor and offer prayers to the community’s ancestors.

This ritual was conducted by communal elders, who floated offerings — betel leaves, areca nuts, tobacco, chicken eggs and white and yellow rice smeared with chicken blood — in the sea while praying for marine security in order to keep the local people supplied with abundant resources.

The natural resources of the waters of Raja Ampat are a major source of livelihood particularly for fishermen haven’t yet been enjoyed to the maximum by the local community and are still in endangered condition.

Based on TNC research during 2007 – 2009, more than 94 percent of the marine resources of Raja Ampat waters benefited fishermen from other regions in East Indonesia.

Under such circumstances, the fishery potential of Raja Ampat is threatened by overfishing and destructive fishing, such as the use of explosives, poisons and closely knitted nets.

By establishing the communal zone along with the observance of local wisdom such as the sasi tradition, which is a model of management of marine resources by closing local waters to the catching of biota during a certain period, the community’s welfare will hopefully be enhanced.

“The zoning system applied to Misool combines modern conservation with local wisdom to encourage the utilization of marine resources in a sensible manner,” marine program director from TNC Indonesia, Abdul Halim, said when attending the declaration ceremony.

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