Wed, 13 Aug 2003

CI warns of coral reef destruction

Moch. N. Kurniawan, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Conservation International (CI) warned on Tuesday that Indonesia would lose its coral reefs in 10 years if the government was unable to conserve them and people continued to use fish bombs.

"People who use fish bombs may be not evil as they only do it because they have to make a living. But people must realize that if they continue to destroy coral reefs, they will eliminate fish, food and their incomes in the future," Peter A. Seligmann, CI's chief executive officer, told The Jakarta Post.

According to Seligmann, Indonesia would become known as a country that destroyed the natural gifts that were bestowed upon it if the destruction of reefs persisted.

During his visit to Indonesia, Seligmann is scheduled to meet President Megawati Soekarnoputri, State Minister for the Environment Nabiel Makarim and Minister of Forestry M. Prakosa.

He had earlier met with Minister of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Rokhmin Dahuri.

Indonesia has over 17,000 islands, making it the largest island state in the world.

Seligmann suggested that the government draft a law to protect reefs.

"Such a law is not for the sake of the international community. It is for the benefit of Indonesians," said Jatna Supriatna, regional vice president of CI for Indonesia, who accompanied Seligmann.

Seligmann said that Indonesia needed to ensure that reef areas were well protected to allow fish to grow, and to set aside areas for fishing.

The government is also obliged to educate people to support sustainable fishing, he added.

Seligmann realized that Indonesia was facing a lot of environmental issues, including illegal logging, but the government and people could not just resolve one problem and ignore the others.

Nevertheless, he praised Megawati's and Minister Rokhmin's commitment to improving the condition of coral reefs in Indonesia.

Seligmann said CI had offered support to Indonesia to establish a trust fund for marine conservation.

"We will contribute US$1 million to help support the planned establishment of the trust fund," he said.

"We are really committed to the plan."

He said that CI would talk with the Indonesian government about possible contributors to the fund, its management and other details over the next few months.