An article by Dicky Christanto, The Jakarta Post.

Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Sharif Cicip Sutardjo says recent findings have revealed that Indonesia’s seas and coastal ecosystems play a huge role in absorbing carbon, which is widely known as “blue carbon”.

“Our seas and coastal ecosystems could absorb up to 138 million tons [of carbon] per year. This is a huge figure and we could utilize this to convince our partners about how important it is to maintain coral reefs and coastal ecosystems,” Sharif said on Thursday after opening the International Blue Carbon Symposium in Manado, North Sulawesi.

Head of the ministry’s research and development agency, Achmad Poernomo, said the symposium was held in order to find the right way forward on the matter.

Achmad added that the government is in the middle of preparing legal documentation so it can produce policies on blue carbon.

“We need to be able to produce rules and regulations that will make sure we gain maximum benefit out of this,” he said.

Indonesia is home to 30 million hectares of seaweed and 3.1 million hectares of mangrove ecosystems.

The Blue Carbon symposium is part of the five-day World Coral Reef Conference, which runs until Saturday. The conference aims to find ways to develop and maintain the business benefits of coral reefs.

Meanwhile, a ministry official said healthy coral attracted more fish and benefited fishermen.

Director general for maritime affairs, coasts and small islands, Sudirman Saad, said the ministry was introducing the benefits of protecting coral reefs to fishing communities.

“We are getting a great response to this,” he said on Wednesday.

He said the ministry had introduced a coral protection program and provided assistance to 30 fishing communities in coastal areas of Java and Bali.

Before the reefs were protected, fishermen were only catching around 3 tons of fish per square kilometer per year. However, after a series of training sessions and assistance, they were collecting 12 to 18 tons of fish per sq km per year, an increase of more than 500 percent.

Imran Amin of the Nature Conservancy said the ministry’s work on coral reef protection deserved appreciation. He cited a fishing community in Tejakula village, Bali, whose coral reef had been improved in the past two years.

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