Resort boss to face trial over coral destruction
Authorities in West Sumatra have wrapped up their investigation of a businessman accused of harvesting coral reefs for construction material to build a resort at a secluded beach in the province.
The suspect, identified only as IG, is the director of the Suwarnadwipa Beach and Resort on the southwestern coast of Padang. He is now under the custody of the Padang District Prosecutors’ Office, which will soon bring the case to court, said West Sumatra Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Agency head Yosmeri.
If found guilty, IG faces up to 10 years of imprisonment in the first coral reef damage case to be brought to court in West Sumatra.
“IG built the resort last year by harvesting 163.64 cubic meters of coral reef material near the resort and using it to build foundations, fences and ornaments on walls,” Yosmeri said on Thursday.
The case started when the agency received a report from local residents in February.
In response to the case, Yosmeri’s office has introduced measures to prevent coral damage in the province and is planning to invite more than 30 marine tourism providers, including resort owners and travel agencies operating in the province, later this month to join the conservation efforts.
“We want to remind all stakeholders in marine tourism to prevent cases similar to the Suwarnadwipa one from occurring. We will warn them that such activities constitute crimes,” Yosmeri said.
Under the plan, tourist service providers are expected to educate their guests to play a part in the conservation efforts, including by not stepping on corals and not bringing them home as souvenirs.
The province will also require companies to set up buoys for tourist boats to make fast, so they wont need to use anchors.
Mentawai Islands Tourism Agency head Desti Seminora vowed to support the campaign. “We are in dire need of immediate action that should not only focus on educating people, but also on monitoring,” she said, adding that coral harvesting for construction material still happens in the regency, which is famous for its world-class surfing spots.
“Initially they were used by the locals to build houses, but now they are used as construction material for village roads and other administration projects. This must be stopped immediately.”
There are about 53,500 hectares of coral reefs in West Sumatra, 90 percent of which, according to Andalas University coral reef expert Indra Junaidi Zakaria, is estimated to be in a bad condition.
The main factors damaging coral reefs are humans activities, including irresponsible fishing practices, and coral bleaching.
Indonesia is home to 559 coral species inhabiting about 2.5 million hectares in the sea. However, the latest monitoring by the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) suggested only 6.4 percent were still in an excellent condition.