Misool Marine Reserve: successfully linking ecotourism with conservation

The Misool Marine Reserve protects a complex and extremely biodiverse coral reef system in South Raja Ampat, Indonesia. Raja Ampat is an epicentre of marine biodiversity, with 1,632 described species of fish. The reserve is jointly managed by Misool Foundation and Misool Resort. Misool Resort is a private island resort that uses ecotourism revenue to generate a large proportion of the funding for the reserve. Marit and Andrew Miners founded the project in 2005 by forging a powerful partnership with the local landowners and communities.  

The Misool Marine Reserve presents an interesting conservation case as it is a marine protected area managed not by a government, but rather by a private tourism operator and its non-profit sister organisation. The partnership has resulted in the protection of a dynamic ocean ecosystem, with measurable results. On the site of a former shark finning camp, Misool Resort demonstrates the key role that the private sector can play in not only protecting, but regenerating natural areas that were previously impacted by anthropogenic degradation. 

At nearly twice the size of Singapore, the reserve covers 300,000 acres, including many uninhabited forested islands. The reserve is divided into 2 No-Take Zones (NTZs)—Daram and Batbitim—linked by a blue water corridor, which is a government mandated Marine Protected Area zoned exclusively for traditional use. In addition to coral reef ecosystems, the Misool Marine Reserve also protects coastal mangrove forests that act as essential nursery grounds for juvenile reef fish and provide ecosystem services in the form of shoreline stabilization, erosion control, and as an important carbon sink.