Sunday, December 5, 2010

A new home for Nemo and his friends: Amazing pictures of sea life sanctuary in the Pacific

By Daily Mail Reporter

Teeming with life: Reef fish swim over coral in Raja Ampat, the area will now become a sanctuary for sharks, turtles and other marine life

Life a real-life version of Disney's hit Finding Nemo, this spectacular world of underwater colours will become a new haven for marine life.

Home to 1,397 species of fish, 600 species of rare coral and covering 17,760 square miles, the seas around Raja Ampat, New Guinea, are the last pristine untouched reefs in the world.

And now thanks to a sweeping environmental initiative, species like the popular clown fish will be protected.

New home: A Clownfish emerges from the foliage in the waters off Indonesia and, right, a turtle has a look round the 17,760 sq mile sanctuary

Known as the Four Kings Shark Sanctuary, the massive area has been set up to provide full protection for sharks, manta rays and turtles that live in the tropical Indonesian waters.

Designed to protect against pollution and illegal reef farming, the sanctuary is also hoped to help rehabilitate shark numbers after a massive decline blamed on human demands for delicacies like shark fin soup.

Raja Ampat enjoys the highest marine biodiversity in the world, but has until now been the scene of destructive overfishing that has severely threatened the eco-system.

Douglas Seifert, 48, the world editor of Dive magazine, said: 'This announcement is part of a joint venture between the local Misool Eco Resort in Indonesia and Shark Savers to protect the reefs and wildlife of Raja Ampat.

'This is a step in the right direction for the recovery of the shark population in the area, but because sharks only reach sexual maturity at six years old, it may take up to 15 years to see any progress

'Over 565 species or 70 per cent of the world's coral species live in Raja Ampat and it is at the heart of the Coral Triangle of south east Asia, which rises up to the Malay peninsular in the north and Papua New Guinea to the east.

'The sanctuary will be policed by local fishermen backed by the Regent of Raja Ampat. They don't want the seas to be ruined, over fished and laid to waste.'

Slippery customer: An octopus blends in to soft coral as it waits for a snack to swim past

Can't see me! Glassy sweepers hide among the reef. The sanctuary has been set up by Misool Eco Resort in Indonesia and Shark Savers to protect coral and wildlife

He added that the fishermen will be financially compensated to protect the sanctuary waters.

The campaign by Shark Savers and Misool Eco Resort won the support of more than 8,500 divers and conservationists.

The sanctuary is the first of its kind in Indonesia.

Michael Skoletsky, executive director of Shark Savers, said: 'This new sanctuary owes its creation to thousands of ocean advocates who expressed the urgent need to protect sharks, mantas and other marine life.

'Divers experience the oceans from the inside and are increasingly taking responsibility for ocean and shark conservation.

'Underwater ecotourism is a vital tool to counter the rampant exploitation of the world's remaining sharks and bio-rich marine ecosystems.'

Underwater paradise: Fish swim over what looks like a giant lily pad. The sanctuary will be home to 1,397 species of fish and 600 species of rare coral

Up to 73million sharks are killed every year, with many populations declined by as much as 90 per cent.

Three quarters of species in Raja Ampat are threatened with extinction.

Peter Knights, executive director of ecological group WildAid, said: 'Sharks are being killed for their fins, mantas are being killed for their gills, and rare reef fish are being caught for aquariums.

'It's tragic that so much of Raja Ampat's biological treasure is destined for consumers who are unaware of the impact.'

source: dailymail

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