‘Castle Rock’ is the iconic dive site in the north of Komodo National Park; a large seamount lying in the current-rich waters between Gili Lawa Laut and the small island of Toko Toko. This is probably one of the most popular dive sites within the park with its abundance of sea-life; schooling jacks, fusiliers, surgeonfish, snappers, bannerfish, sweetlips and barracuda, sharks, moray eels and turtles.
With a current running it can be amazing to dive here with the schools of fish causing shadows on the reef as they swim by en-masse. The sound of ‘thunder’ reverberates as the schooling Trevally hunt together amongst the coral covered rocks.
The grey reef and white tip reef sharks cruise easily backwards and forwards in the current while you are hooked into a rock observing the grace of these magnificant creatures. There are coral heads covered in colourful softcorals all plump with water from the passing currents, seafans and crinoids to provide a picturesque backdrop to the fish action.
Unfortunately Castle Rock is in the news this week because of a video captured by an anonymous diver of a local Indonesian long-line fishing boat. The video shows him talking to the fisherman who say that they are from the island of Lombok. It shows the diver cutting a reef shark from one of the lines; its difficult to say whether this shark will survive because it seems to be swimming while on the line but once it has been released it just drops lifelessly into the depths. The footage also shows the carcass of another reef shark on the fishing boat itself.
Please follow the link below to the footage on YouTube:
In 1991 the area was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site to expand the original terrestrial protection of the endemic Komodo Dragon to now encompass the biodiversity of the marine life as well. This unacceptable fishing incident follows in the same week as the rise in prices of entrance fees to Komodo National Park demanded by the WWF who are in charge of managing the area. Their website states:
“Strict enforcement of anti-poaching and illegal fishing regulations thanks to coordinated patrols by local park rangers, the Indonesian Navy, and the police has made wildlife and natural resource crimes within Komodo National Park much more difficult.”
These fees have almost doubled overnight and risen exorbitantly in the last few years. International visitors applaud the protection of marine parks and are pleased to pay for the monitoring of these areas but what happens when they see the laws blatantly ignored and the money going directly to coffers in Jakarta rather than funding projects within local environmnent. With estimates of annual visitors to be in the region of over half million and high season for the area imminent, this amounts to a substantial yearly income.
The Indonesian minister of Fisheries, Susi Pudjiastuti, has been seen to publicy condemn fishing by foreigh vessels in Indonesia waters in the last couple of years. This tough stance has seen scores of fishing boats burnt dramatically after the crews and their valuable cargo have been disembarked.
But what about local Indonesian fishing boats?
With 17,000 islands in the Indonesian archipelago and many regions, like Alor and Koon, beginning to introduce “marine park protection” fees for visitors, the question is how is this money going to be used to effectively enforce the protection of these areas.
Please visit our Komodo Gallery