Coral reef management and Tara Bandu on Ataúro Island: an ecologist’s perspective
Catherine Kim University of Queensland (UQ), AUSTRALIA
As a coral ecologist work in Timor-Leste, it became apparent very quickly that socio-economic and cultural aspects of Timorese society also affect the coral reefs. I accidentally learned of Tara Bandu when I returned to Beloi in in July 2017 to re-survey the coral reef and was told that the Beloi community had created a local marine protected area (MPA). Now, SCUBA diving on the reef required a small fee. This was my introduction to Tara Bandu as a means of marine conservation and I returned to Timor-Leste in 2019 to attempt to learn more about this movement. As I perceived it, the two main aims of these MPAs is to preserve fisheries and income generation from the ‘reef tax’ fees from tourists. The expansion of Tara Bandu MPAs to the remaining island communities happened relatively quickly and the successes of the initial MPAs were not easily transferrable to other communities. Here, I will discuss some of the challenges of achieving these goals from geography to coordination with SCBUA dive operators and potential impacts on the reef.