The past two months have flown by in a whirlwind of seascapes, hiking, surfing, fish catch reports, economic analyses and the fundamental question of the summer: how do you prove large-scale marine conservation is good for economic growth?
In creating my argument I have been focusing on two wildly different seascapes within the Coral Triangle: The Bird’s Head Seascape and the Sulu-Sulawesi Seascape. The Bird’s Seascape is located wholly within the self-declared “conservation province” of West Papua, the semi-autonomous province of Indonesia. It is home to a network of community-run marine protected areas and a relatively low population. The Sulu-Sulawesi Seascape encompasses waters of Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines and includes larger cities and busy shipping routes. Despite their differences, they are both full of examples of how communities and business have economically benefited from being involved in integrated and comprehensive marine planning.
The economic benefits exemplified by the Bird’s Head and Sulu-Sulawesi Seascapes range from benefits to local people, communities, and businesses, to larger industry growth, to increased certainty of access for private sector investment and sustainable financing, to increased long-term food security and safeguarding ecosystems services. It’s been a rewarding experience to dive deep into a topic and to discover that economics is also on the side of conservation!
Outside of the office there is no shortage of things to explore both in the water and on land. Beautiful hikes and waterfalls, giant hammerheads and baby white-tip reef sharks, amazing beaches, perfect surf breaks, under water caverns, and countless sea turtles. I will never get tired of seeing a turtle swim by. Never ever.