Schooling is for the fishes in the Daram Islands in Raja Ampat, thanks to Seacology’s marine conservation efforts. The non-profit organization, which focuses on protecting islands, funded the construction of a kindergarten in the Fafanlap village in exchange for the locals’ promise to support a marine reserve in their backyard.
“Seacology only works on preserving island ecosystems, which is very important because the majority of the earth’s plant and animal extinctions take place on islands,” executive director Silverstein explained. “Raja Ampat is the world’s epicenter for marine biodiversity,” he added.
The local Misool Eco Resort had already established a 90,440 no-take zone in Raja Ampat in 2005, but the marine life around the Daram Islands still suffered from harmful harvesting and fishing practices. So when the resort’s Andy Miners mentioned that the Fafanlap village desperately needed a kindergarten, Silverstein saw the opportunity to apply Seacology’s unique conservation approach to expand the no-take zone.
“We focus on win-win projects where island people receive something tangible they need such as a health clinic in exchange for establishing a marine or forest reserve,” Silverstein explained. “Indigenous islanders around the world are generally not given any incentive to protect their ecosystem. Providing [Fafanlap] with the funding for the kindergarten was thus very well received.”
Partnering with the resort, WildAid, and the Walton Family foundation, Seacology funded a building for the kindergarten and for community events, which was completed in 2012. With the locals’ cooperation, the partners aim to expand the no-take zone by 99,583 acres.
“We are very pleased with the progress of this project,” Silverstein said. “Seacology’s goal is to help preserve this astonishing marine biodiversity and at the same time improve the quality of life of the local islanders.”
Photo by Paul Gabbert
A dolphin in the 99,000-acre no-take marine resereve in Raja Ampat's Misool region accompanies Seacology's delegation en route to visit the new kindergarten in the village of Fafanlap on Daram Island