Whales Raja Ampat
Raja Ampat is a marine area with high biodiversity (including a network of seven marine protected areas (MPAs)) in West Papua, Indonesia that belongs to the Coral Triangle, which is located in the western Pacific Ocean. It includes the waters of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Timor Leste and Solomon Islands. The coral triangle is named after its high number of corals (nearly 600 different species of reef-building corals), moreover six of the world’s seven marine turtle species and more than 2000 species of reef fish can be found there.
In Raja Ampat over 15 marine mammal species have been identified, the region was designated as maritime Regency, and a ban on the hunting and killing of all large marine fauna was introduced.
The area includes four large islands (Waigeo, Batanta, Salawati and Misool), hundreds of smaller islands and the Dampier and Sagewin strait.
Indonesia consists of 16 056 islands with a major oceanic exchange between the Pacific and Indian Ocean and Raja Ampat is strongly influenced by it. These water routes are used by many whales and dolphins, to migrate from one Ocean to the other, however not much is known about the species.
In 2015 we were kindly invited by the Eco-Resort Papua Paradise to assess the marine mammal species in this area and evaluate tourism activities for whales and dolphins in Raja Ampat.
In less than 6 weeks of field research we found over 15 different species of marine mammals directly in front of the resort.
Our second visit to Papua Paradise was longer and we could gather more information and meet people that will be important for the business development. We saw the possibility to start a long-term research and conservation project and looked for local research facilities.
Dr. Vester visited the University of Papua (UNIPA) in Manokwari and started a cooperation with Dr. Ricardo Tapilatu, the whale and dolphin research project will be hosted and organized by UNIPA.
We are now initiating our joint research and conservation project in Raja Ampat and the Seascape Birdshead in West Papua.
Planned start for the research project with UNIPA will be in August 2018.
Dr. Vester (as a volunteer for Ocean Sounds) is also accompanying Whale Macro Tours on board the pioneering liveaboard MV Pindito.