The implications for sustainable management of Ocean Sunfish (Mola mola) at Nusa Penida through the nature-based tourism

Published on
July 10, 2013

The large, enigmatic ocean sunfish attract increasing numbers of tourists each year to Nusa Penida, Indonesia, when the sunfish come into the reefs and get “cleaned” of parasites at fish cleaning stations.  This location is one of the only known places in the world where scuba divers can reliably encounter them, and the tourism associated with sunfish diving has become a major source of income for the local community.  During the sunfish season in July-November, about 100 dive operators offer sunfish tours from Bali, with about 14 operators located on the small island of Nusa Lembongan.  During peak season an estimated one thousand dives is undertaken daily in a small number of bays at Nusa Penida.  While the industry started two decades ago, the tourism pressure has increased quickly over the past few years, and currently, may be approaching unsustainable levels.

The recent creation of the multiple use Nusa Penida Marine Conservation Park forms part of Indonesia’s action plan in the Coral Triangle Initiative.  This Park, and the management zones within it, provides a framework for a coordinated management approach to numerous local activities, including the nature-based sunfish tourism.

Both the establishment of the marine park and associated initiatives for tourism management have important social and financial implications for the local community. A unique opportunity exists to undertake socio-economic studies in parallel with the biological investigations proposed here.  It is envisaged that such studies would be based on work with the local community on Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Penida to obtain their views on the value of the marine park and the nature-based tourism on sunfish, and to identify the financial implications of tourism in relation to their livelihoods within and outside the tourism sector.

Murdoch University contacts: Marianne Nygaard (PhD candidate), Prof Neil Loneragan and Associate Professor Carol Warren

Wageningen University contacts: Megan Bailey and Simon Bush