Explore the Final Frontier - Ocean Geographic Cenderawasih Bay (West Papua) Expeditions 2011
Based on information from our Indonesian associates, an Ocean Geographic team conducted a recce to West Papua in November 2010; the focus was on the regular appearances of four to five whale sharks up to 11m in length almost all year round. These sharks are supposedly residents of the bay and are very tame and allowing people to swim in close proximity while they consume fishes from the fishing pontoons. Over the course of just two days in water interaction at one pontoon, 21 sharks were encountered in 13 hours. In conjunction with Ocean Geographic’s SOS’s projects, two expeditions are plan now plan for Cenderawasih Bay in 2011.
Cenderawasih Bay Marine National Park's positioning can easily be discerned from the map of Indonesia; it occupies the northern coastal area of West Papua resembling the shape of a large bird’s neck. The marine park encompasses 80 square kilometres, making it the largest in Southeast Asia. There is a huge range of marine life in Cenderawasih Bay Marine National Park comprising of all variations of coral reef; fringing reef, barrier reef, atoll, patch reef, and shallow water reef mound. The fringing reefs are the most abundant and they are indeed the last of the few remaining pristine reefs in the world.
Until in recent time, the bay was geologically isolated from the flow of the Pacific tides; this isolation has somewhat consecrated Cenderawasih with a wide variety of endemic species. Researchers noted the interesting occurrences of many habitually deep-dwelling fish species are found here in relatively shallow water. The wide variation of reef formations along with the resident population of the ocean’s largest fish, the whale shark, prompted Ocean Geographic Honorary Editor Dr. Gerald Allen to call Cenderawasih “the Galapagos of Indonesia’s Reefs”. To date Gerry has discovered five new species of fish, including a new dottyback and garden eel. They current count of fish species has increased from 884 species to 955.
Though the expedition predominantly survey of coral reefs and muck sites for critters such as pygmies, tiger shrimps, frogfishes and octopi we will also explore a few well known wrecks - WW II ships and planes! However without a doubt, the highlight of the expeditions is to locate the bay’s resident whale sharks that have learned to feast upon fish nets filled with ikan puri – small anchovies around fishing pontoons (bagans in local language). This perhaps is like protein enrichment program for the habitually plankton diet sharks. According to whale shark scientists, Brent Stewart and Morgan Riley these are out of the ordinary behaviour of these giant sharks. What is most extraordinary is that elsewhere in the world, fishermen are culling these sharks for their fins, the bagan fishermen here seems to be friends with these sharks, encouraging their visits by offering them bucket load of ikan puri. It is our intend to learn more about the resident population of whale sharks and as well ensure meaningful conservation effort to protect the wellbeing of both fish and local stakeholders.
Expedition Platform – the exquisite fine diving & fine dining live-board - MSY Seahorse; expedition staff comprise of photo pro and researcher. Limited spots available; USD 3680 per person twin sharing; email expeditions@OGSociety.org
*OG members discount applicable.
More about Cenderawasih Bay
Location: Southwest quarter of Cendrawasih Bay, Irian Jaya
Status: National Park
Established: September 2, 1993 (Decree of Ministry of Forestry of Republic of Indonesia No. 472/Kpts-II/1993)
Size (km2): 1,453.5
IUCN Category: II
Features: The Park comprises the southwest quarter of Cenderawasih Bay which lies to the east of the isthmus connecting the Vogelkop Peninsula to the mainland. The park falls within the administrative districts of Manokwari and Nabire. Access is by sea from the towns of Manokwari and Nabire, which lie 95 km and 38 km north and east, respectively. Air transport is available from Manokwari, Biak and Nabire.
The reserves support a wide spectrum of relatively undisturbed coastal and marine habitats, of which the extensive coral reefs rank amongst the finest in the world. The marine habitats, particularly contain a number of rare and commercially important species, provide the basis for the local fishing industry and have a high potential for visitor use and research.
The park consist of 80 km2 coral reefs, 1,305.3 km2 seas, 12.4 km2 coastal plain and 55,8 km2 islands bounded by 500 km coastline. The park keeps a wide variety of important marine species, from Scleractinia corals to giant whales. Many of them is endangered (see also CITES lists) and protected by Indonesian law. There are five reef types in the park: fringing reefs, barrier reef, patch reef, atoll and shallow water reef mound. The diversity of Scleractinia coral species in the park is enormous, including Acropora, Porites, Pocillopora and Favites families. Salm et. al. (1982) reported 130 species (62 genus and subgenus). Furthermore, Gilkes and Adipati (1987) reported 145 species of 67 genus of coral. WWF survey in 1997 found 201 species of 64 genus and subgenus.
The steep and incised topography of the western coastal mountains and the Wandamen and Kwatisore peninsulas to the south, reflect their position on the convergence of the Pacific and Australian tectonic plates. Five major reef types are found, of which fringing reefs are the most extensive, bordering most of the mainland coastline and the major continental islands.
The island of the Auri archipelago is composed of a steep-sided patch reef. Reef topography varies from gently shelving shallow water to vertical cliffs 40-5-m in depth. The park includes habitat of Butterfly fishes (Chaetodontidae), Angel fishes (Pomacanthridae), Wrasess (Labridae), Parrot fishes (Scaridae), Surgeon fishes (Acanthuridae), Rabbit fishes (Siganidae), Trigger fishes (Balistidae) and other reef fishes. Gilkes and Adipati (1987) recorded 209 fish species in the park, while the 1984 survey (WWF/KSDA/YPMD/Fisheries) recorded 305 species. WWF survey in 1997 recorded 208 fish species. Sharks and rays also inhabits the park, including White-tip reef shark (Triaenodon obesus) and Black-tip reef shark (Charcariuns melanopterus). Economic valued fishes inhabits the park includes Lethrinidae, Lutjanidae, grouper (Serranidae), trevally (Carangidae), mackerel (Scomberomorussp.), skipjack tuna (Katsuwonus sp.) and tuna (Eythunnus sp.)
Gilkes and Adipati (1987) recorded 196 species of molluscs, includes 153 gastropods, 40 bivalves and 2 cephalopods. There are six species of Tridacna clams found in the park: giant clam (Tridacna gigas), small giant clam (T. maxima), southern giant clam (T. derasa), scaly clam (T. squamosa), boring clam (T. crocea) and bear's paw clam (Hippopus hippopus). The largest giant clam recorded in the park reached 1.5 in diameter. There are also some gastropods such as triton trumpet (Charonia tritonis), horned helmet (Cassis cornuta) and top shell lola (Trochus niloticus) as well as rare green snail (Turbo armoratus). Other snails such as cowries (Cyprea sp.), stormbid (Lambis sp.) and cone shell (Conus sp.) are abundant in the sea floor.
The park includes nesting habitat for green turtle (Chelonia mydas) and hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata). The leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) and olive ridley turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea) are known to feed in the bay. The islands of Nusambier, Iwari, Kuwom, Matas and Wairundi and several mainland beaches have been recorded as turtle nesting beaches. In some beaches, sea crocodile (Crocodylus porosus) is sometimes found.
The park also includes feeding habitat of three sea mammals, Dugong (Dugong dugon), dolphin (Delpinus delphis) and whale. According to Salm et. al.(1982), dugong inhabit the sea grass bed in the southern coast of Mios Waar island as well as some mainland beaches. In 1982 aerial survey, 13 dugongs found in the west coast of the park.
Coconut crab (Birgus latro) is the largest living terrestrial arthropod (Helfman, 1979in Salm et. al., 1982). Carapace reaches to 30 cm. Hothius (1959, 1963) in Salm et. al.(1982) reported that some islands of Wairundi, Nukup and Auri is the habitat of the crab. Islanders of the park called Manggaperba.
Over exploitation of marine resources, such as turtles and giant clams by local and itinerant fishermen is a serious problem throughout the park. Particularly badly affected is the Tridacna Reef where the giant clam population has been decimated. Other serious problems are the use of explosives by itinerant fishermen, which have degraded large areas of reef, and loss of vegetation on several of the Auri islands due to the felling of Casuarina for fuel. This has resulted in soil erosion and loss of nesting bird habitat.
Further information available on:
National Park Authority
Tel/Fax. (+62-986) 212437
About the Whale Shark (Rhincodon typus)
It is the biggest fish in the sea, a charismatic marine megafauna that brings excitement and adventure to dive enthusiasts as it supports thriving tourism industries in Ningaloo Marine Park in Australia, Belize, Philippines, Mexico, Seychelles, and Christmas Island. Unfortunately, the planet's largest fish is on the verge of extinction. Whale sharks are extremely vulnerable to over exploitation by man for several reasons. They have a slow growth rate, only reaching maturity at around 30 years old and living as long as 60 - 100 years. Their reproduction rate is also very slow - long intervals between pregnancies. In Taiwan and India documented catches have declined from the 1980's to 2000's.