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RAJA AMPAT, WEST PAPUA, INDONESIA
Located in Indonesia’s remote Raja Ampat, Misool Private Marine Reserve protects 300,000 acres of the world’s most ecologically significant coral reefs — an area larger than all of New York City’s five boroughs combined. Saltwater mangroves provide critical habitats for reef fish, rays and invertebrates, sandy beaches are favoured nesting sites for hawksbill and green sea turtles, and shallow lagoons are breeding places for blacktip reef sharks. In 2017, the reserve was awarded Mission Blue Hope Spot status, proving its critical importance to ocean health. Tucked away on one of the reserve’s uninhabited archipelagos is Misool’s eco-resort offering exclusive, adventure tourism that helps to fund conservation efforts directly.
Misool Private Marine Reserve is made up of two No-Take Zones (one of which was an abandoned shark finning camp) and a restricted gear corridor. Owners Marit and Andrew Miners spent years negotiating leases with local communities, to ensure that they benefit too. Three years after the resort opened, in 2011, the Misool Foundation was established to formalise conservation efforts. Fifteen permanent rangers work with the local police force to protect the area from illegal fishing and poaching. In 2017 over US$85,000 was raised through stakeholders, a guest levy and guest outreach. Both the resort and foundation benefit the local community by not only helping to protect fish stocks but providing jobs to over 200 people.
Central to Misool’s mission is uniting tourism enterprise with coastal communities, non-profit organisations and government agencies. Misool’s conservation awareness and education efforts are as much for the staff and local communities as for guests — creating an inspiring and passion-led ethos throughout the resort. With capacity for just 40 guests, Misool resort is built entirely from reclaimed wood, cut on the island. Other sustainability and community initiatives include building a solar farm, establishing a community recycling program (that rescues two tons of ocean-bound plastic each day), renovating a kindergarten and banning non-reef safe sunscreen.
Misool joined The Long Run in 2018 and committed to a holistic balance of the 4Cs – Conservation, Community, Culture and Commerce – as a means to contribute meaningfully to the biodiversity and the people of their local region.
In 2005, Misool’s founders, Andrew and Marit Miner, were diving in the southern reaches of Raja Ampat when they discovered an active shark-finning camp. Seeing such destruction taking place on a beautiful stretch of beach spurred the Miners to want to want to protect this ecosystem and thus their mission to create Misool was born. The Miners negotiated a lease agreement with the local community, the shark-finners were expelled from the beach and over the course of two and a half years, the Miners with the help of their team successfully transformed the former shark finning beach into a high-end private island resort built entirely from reclaimed wood. This all lay the foundations for the creation of a 300,000-acre privately managed marine reserve, with Misool Resort at its centre. Their conservation initiatives were formalised in 2011 when Misool Foundation was established. This Indonesian charity takes a broad approach to conservation and shares a joint mission with Misool Resort: to safeguard the most biodiverse reefs on Earth through the empowerment of local communities, providing a structure by which they are able to reclaim their traditional tenureship of reefs.
Misool is committed to supporting the communities who rely on the sea by empowering them to become guardians of their reefs, which are their natural birth-right. They are advocates for the reef and for all the creatures without a voice. Their inclusive business model helps to support the regional economy by employing local residents wherever they can. Misool Resort employs 165 people. Many of those are domiciled in small coastal villages, injecting US$98,500 worth of wages into the local economy in 2017. Misool Foundation employs 81 people including 15 permanent rangers patrolling their area and 22 staff employed by their Community Recycling Project (Bank Sampah). This equates to combined incomes of almost US$100,000 per year; a substantial amount for these small communities.
Misool would not be possible without strong partnerships with the local community. The concept of sustainable resource management is an intrinsic part of the culture in Raja Ampat. Locals use a mechanism called “sasi” (to “open and close”) to manage fishing practice and maintain healthy stocks. The concept of sustainability has been integral to the indigenous culture for generations and this was invaluable when it came to partnering to create our first No-Take-Zone in 2005. Misool and local leaders signed a lease to protect an area that historically had been fished illegally. Dynamite, gill nets and long-lining were decimating the environment, while communities lacked the resources to effectively challenge poachers. Today these waters are patrolled by Misool’s locally staffed Ranger Patrol. Rangers move between four stations using five dedicated boats, conducting patrols 24 hours a day. By working closely with the police and army, the Rangers can confront vessels caught fishing illegally inside the reserve. This powerful mechanism allows them to regain their traditional stewardship of the reefs while growing the local economy.
Misool and Misool Foundation have developed a unique partnership and model to demonstrate that for-profit enterprises can, and should, invest in conservation. The two organisations share resources in an extremely remote location, with both sectors benefiting from the economy of scale. The resort provides critical logistical, technical, and administrative assistance and supports the Foundation with a senior management advisory team, fundraising, and technical expertise. The Foundation, in turn, protects the business’s central asset, which is the integrity of the ecosystem. In 2017 Misool implemented a fundraising initiative to reinvest the business’ profits into conservation work, and the resort donates US$50 per guest to the Foundation.
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