By Mark Heighes.
Last year midway through 2020 while sitting around with Seven Seas crippled by Covid, I had an idea! What if I could use the resources available to do something good for the ocean that has given us all so much over the years? So, I found some backing from a repeat client who has been joining trips with myself and the crew long before the introduction of the Seven Seas.
By November 2020 we had put as special group of conservationists and photographers together all with many years of experience working in Indonesia. As we had some backing to help cover a good chunk of our expenses and we launched a one-month expedition out into the Forgotten Islands and Banda Sea. Some of you may have read some short stories and video put together by the group of conservationists and photographers on Facebook or in our recent newsletters.
The idea was to make contact with targeted isolated local communities and work on conservation efforts to help them manage and protect their own surrounding marine environment from destructive fishing practices, such as blast fishing and shark finning just to name a few. The invading fishermen are mostly pirates from other parts of Indonesia who have already destroyed or fished out their own reefs. They venture out to the remote island in the Banda Sea to poach or sometimes pay local communities to fish on or around their reefs.
I knew exactly which islands to target after over 35 years of experience exploring the Banda Sea. During this time, we have established very good relations with many of the remote island communities and have been able to identify the areas under most threat from destructive fishing practices. To cut a long story short the trip was very successful and we signed local agreements with community leaders that covered areas such as the villages of Welora on Dawera Island, Jerili on Serua Island and, the island of Manuk.
Due to the success of the first expedition, and with Seven Seas still suffering the effects of Covid in 2021 we contacted our donor. She was up for another expedition. Wow! We now had the ability to launch another expedition in April 2021, however, this time we targeted the northern Banda and Flores Seas. During this expedition we identified a new area of interest named Tayandu. Tayandu is located in the Kei island group. We were also able to follow up on another program that we started two years ago in remote, uninhabited island group named Lucipara, or more appropriately Pulau Pulau Penyu (Islands of the Turtles). The conservation of Lucipara is an idea that I have been trying to get off the ground since first visiting the Islands in the mid-80s. As a result of our combined efforts Lucipara is well on its way to being declared a marine protected area.
None of this would have been possible without funding from our repeat guest (who wishes to remain anonymous). She generously supplied the fuel for both of these expeditions. She also kick started the Lucipara project with funding two years ago.
The late photographer, adventurer, writer and all-round terrific bloke Tommy Schultz, who was onboard the first expedition in November 2020 named the 1000 nautical mile Voyage Epic…and it stuck! That trip became Epic 1 and the next in April 2021 became the Epic 2 expedition.
We now plan to follow up on these efforts and launch Epic 3 from November 1-16. We will be doing follow up work with the communities we have signed agreements with in the Banda Sea and take a closer look at the communities in Tayandu. Once again, as in Epic 1 and 2 we will have a team of Indonesian nationals onboard managed by long-time friend and shipmate, Peter Mous. Peter has worked on conservation efforts here in Indonesia for the last 23 years. Peter is the leader of a project called YKAN that specialises in this type of work with local communities. YKAN is a branch of the well-known NGO The Nature Conservancy.
I think what we are doing is winner and am totally behind YKAN, hence our efforts to help. If you too would like to support our combined efforts in the Banda Sea and the YKAN program please refer to the information on page 3. Donations are to be used for non-profit. They are tax deductible and will cover only Seven Seas operating expenses in order to facilitate the Epic 3 expedition with the YKAN team onboard in November 2021. The balance of any donations will go directly towards the YKAN project and helping local Indonesian coastal communities save their own very special marine environment before it’s too late.
STRINGS OF PEARLS IN EASTERN INDONESIA – A PLAN TO CONSERVE REEFS AROUND SMALL, REMOTE ISLANDS, TOGETHER WITH ISLAND COMMUNITIES AND ECO-TOURISM OPERATORS
The small islands in eastern Indonesia feature unique reefs, which are often excellent dive destinations. They are worthy of conservation, but their remoteness makes it difficult to establish a conservation program. It is difficult to deploy permanent rangers, and also deployment of patrols is too costly. Fortunately, there are two groups who can help out: The islanders themselves, and Indonesia’s fleet of liveaboards, who frequently visit these islands. YKAN is developing an initiative to involve island communities in conservation, in collaboration with the live-aboard association (JANGKAR). We are asking your help to support this initiative.
With your help, YKAN will do the following:
- Agree with village community which reefs needs protection
- Establish a conservation agreement with the villagers who frequently visit the reef and with the village administration, where the villagers agree to protect the reefs from fishing and other destructive use. The reefs will remain open for visitation. The village community will receive an annual cash payment for their help.
- Have meetings with local government to ensure that they are aware of this village-based initiative
- Appoint one of the community members as a conservation steward, establish a reporting mechanisms and a means of communication with the steward
- Work with the liveaboard fleet to help with supplies for participating village communities, and with monitoring of the conservation agreement
- Appoint a coordinator, based in Bali, who will keep in contact with the conservation stewards and with the liveaboards
It takes US$ 50,000 to get a first site going for one year. This will cover expenses for community engagement and mobilization of a conservation stewards. YKAN will cover costs for its personnel and for coordination. YKAN will develop a program that raises funds in Indonesia to support this initiative over the coming years.
Yayasan Konservasi Alam Nusantara is an Indonesian non-profit, and it is an affiliate of The Nature Conservancy (nature.org).
INFORMATION FOR MAKING DONATIONS
For USA Residents
It is very important that donors send an email to
with the following details:
- the name of the donor (and the name of the bank account holder if it is a wire transfer)
- the amount
- the text: “TNC Indonesia marine conservation agreements”
In that way, we can track the payment.
Donations can be made
The Nature Conservancy
Attn: Treasury/Maricar Boyle (Asia Pacific)
4245 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 100
Arlington, VA 22203 USA
By Wire Transfer
Bank Name: Bank of America
Bank Address: 1111 E. Main Street, Richmond, VA 23219
ABA Routing Number: 026009593 (incoming wires-U.S.)
SWIFT Code: BOFAUS3N (incoming wires-International)
Account Name: The Nature Conservancy
Account Number: 004112981822
For Australian Residents
It is very important that donors send an email to
With the following details:
- the name of the donor (i.e. the name of the bank account holder who made the transfer)
- the amount
- the text: “Indonesian marine conservation agreements”
In that way, we can track the payment. The donors will then receive a tax receipt from Simon.
Donations should be made to the following account:
Bank Name: ANZ Bank, 123 Eagle Street, Brisbane
Account Name: The Nature Conservancy Australia Trust
BSB number: 014 015
Account No: 4995 65763
Looking forward to having you all back onboard with us, hopefully sometime soon in the not-too-distant future. In the meantime, let’s try and save the best of what we still have.