Towards conservation of the Ombai Strait in the Indo-Pacific migration corridor. In: Transboundary Conservation: A systematic and integrated approach.
Towards conservation of the Ombai Strait Transboundary Marine Corridor in the Indo-Pacific.
The Savu Sea is in eastern Indonesia, at the nexus of the Indian and Pacific Oceans.
It forms part of the Lesser Sunda Ecoregion that covers more than 300,000 km2.
These waters include the world’s highest coral reef biodiversity, as well as Indo-Pacific migration corridors of regional importance to large cetaceans.
The major passage, Ombai Strait Transboundary Corridor is shared between Indonesia (the islands of Alor, west Timor and Wetar) and Timor Leste.
The corridor has been identified as a critical habitat for endangered, threatened and protected species—including sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus), blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus), marine turtles (Cheloniidae), whale shark (Rhincodon typus) and mantas (Manta birostris)—and has been integrated in large-scale Marine Spatial Planning initiatives.
The corridor is also a major exit for the Indonesia Throughflow: a unique oceanic exchange current between the tropical Pacific and Indian Oceans which results in strong seasonal upwelling and persistent pelagic habitats of importance to migratory and residential cetaceans and to other large marine life.
It is a challenge to manage this region, as both countries have complex legal frameworks including national, provincial and district level mandates for Ombai Strait waters.
Traditional tenure and intense commercial resource use must also be managed; there is however limited institutional capacity in both nations to address current and emerging threats.
A comprehensive network of marine protected areas (MPAs) has been developed and is currently implemented in parts of the Lesser Sunda Seascape, with emphasis on coral reefs, deep-sea yet near-shore habitats, migration corridors, such as the Ombai Strait, and priority species, such as blue whales.
The marine spatial planning processes and conservation actions that are needed to ensure protection of the Ombai Strait Transboundary Corridor could be used as a model to encourage more transboundary conservation measures for large cetaceans throughout the Coral Triangle16.