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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. The reserve is home to the world’s most biodiverse reefs: oceanic manta rays visit underwater cleaning stations; sandy beaches are favoured nesting sites for hawksbill and green sea turtles; 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. In October 2018, the reserve was recognised with a Global Ocean Refuge Platinum Award (GLORES), which sets science-based standards for marine conservation and celebrates marine protected areas (MPAs) that achieve significant conservation results.
Tucked away on one of the reserve’s multiple islands is Misool Resort. This private island resort not only provides exclusive adventure holidays and transformative experiences among pristine nature but also helps to fund the conservation efforts of its sister non-profit organisation, Misool Foundation.
The Misool Private Marine Reserve is a protected area that consists of two No-Take Zones inside which all fishing and extractive practices are banned. The reserve was created in cooperation with the local landowners and designed to bring conservation benefits to the ecosystem while maintaining healthy fish stocks to support the future food security of the surrounding communities. When the No-Take Zone agreement was ratified in 2005, construction work began, and Misool resort opened in 2008. Three years later, the Misool Foundation was established to formalise conservation efforts. Today, 15 permanent rangers work with the local police force to protect the area from illegal fishing and poaching. The two organisations employ approximately 250 people and in 2017 Misool resort injected US$98,500 worth of wages into the local economy. In 2017, the team raised over US$85,000 through shareholder and guest donations.
Central to Misool’s mission is the concept that tourism enterprises can unite with coastal communities, non-profit organisations and government agencies to achieve long-term conservation results. 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 was built entirely from reclaimed wood, cut on the island. Other sustainability and community initiatives include a newly-built solar farm, a community recycling program (that processes two tons of ocean-bound plastic each day), building a kindergarten in a local village and employing teachers for underserved areas 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 Miners, were diving in the southern reaches of Raja Ampat when they discovered an active shark-finning camp. Seeing such destruction spurred the Miners to protect this ecosystem and thus their mission to create Misool was born. A lease agreement was reached with the local community, the shark-finners were expelled and over the course of two and a half years the team transformed the former shark-finning beach into a high-end private island resort. This lay the foundation for the creation of Misool Foundation, an Indonesian-registered non-profit organisation. Misool Foundation 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. They are advocates for the reef and for all the creatures without a voice. This inclusive business model helps to support the regional economy by employing local residents whenever possible. 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 a further 81 people including 15 permanent rangers patrolling their area and 22 staff employed by their Community Recycling Project (Bank Sampah). Misool Foundation distributes a combined income of almost US$100,000 per year in salaries; 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 the first No-Take-Zone in 2005. Misool and local leaders signed a lease to protect an area away from the villages that historically had been plundered by fishermen from outside, fishing illegally. Dynamite, gillnets and long-lining were decimating the environment, while communities lacked the resources to effectively halt poaching. 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.