Karimunjawa Seascape, Indonesia

Karimunjawa Seascape Photo
©Caleb McClennen

Located in the middle of the Java Sea, Karimunjawa National Park is one of only seven national marine parks in all of Indonesia. It’s part of an ecosystem known to contain the most diverse concentrations of life on the planet—the Coral Triangle. The reefs of Karimunjawa teem with colorful schools of butterflyfish, parrotfish, emperor fish, and fusiliers swimming through nearly 400 square miles of coralline waters. A chain of 27 islands dot the waters, most of them uninhabited. The several thousand people who reside on five of the islands fish its waters.

Fast Facts

  • Nearly 250 species of reef fish and 100 species of coral thrive in the waters of Karimunjawa, while more than 40 species of birds inhabit the hills of its islands.
  • Karimunjawa is the first of Indonesia’s marine parks to be re-zoned based on both science and community consultation, according to a process established by WCS.
  • Three major ethnic groups live on the islands: the Javanese, the Bugis, and the Madurese.


Coastal communities in Karimunjawa and across Indonesia rely heavily upon marine resources to meet basic food and income needs. But the ocean’s supply is not bottomless. Overfishing and destructive practices such as dynamite and cyanide fishing are depleting fish populations and damaging coral reef habitats at alarming rates. The rise in ocean temperature and acidification brought on by a warming climate further jeopardize the ability of corals and marine wildlife to grow and thrive. Now, the tide is turning, and Indonesians are seizing opportunities to protect coral reefs in the face of these pressures with new urgency and heightened awareness.

WCS Responds

In 2001, WCS field surveys showed that Karimunjawa Marine National Park was not meeting its conservation objectives because it did not have the support and buy-in of local people. Many did not even know they were living inside the boundaries of a national park. At the invitation of the government of Indonesia, WCS launched a collaborative process to re-zone Karimunjawa with extensive input from local communities. The result is a management plan that much more effectively meets the needs of humans, wildlife, and their ecosystem.

WCS is also leading an effort to obtain and synthesize key research findings. Our researchers are working to understand how various coral reef sites respond to human activities, management measures, and the effects of climate change. We have created a national database on coral reef systems that provides the tools needed to design and evaluate conservation and management approaches. The database also helps to illuminate trends in Indonesia’s globally important coral reefs.

Since Karimunjawa was rezoned, the degradation of coral reefs has slowed and management has improved considerably. Still, threats from over-fishing and the challenges of sustainable development remain. On the reefs of Aceh, WCS helped assess the effects of the 2004 tsunami, and continues to monitor long-term impacts and trends.

WCS Projects

Post-tsunami Coral Recovery in Aceh

The 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean damaged coral reefs, which provided food and livelihoods to the communities hit hardest by the disaster. In the years that followed, WCS scientists examined how the reefs were recovering and developed a conservation model balancing the needs of local fisheries and coral ecosystems.

From the Newsroom

In Indonesia, a New Law Protects Manta RaysFebruary 19, 2014

Ray populations in Indonesia face serious threats from overfishing, but recently the government has taken action to ensure their future.

A Map for Reef ReliefAugust 12, 2011

WCS marine scientists provide a color code for coral conservation by mapping out the stress loads of the world's reefs.

New Hope for Coral TriangleMay 18, 2009

WCS applauds the launching of the Coral Triangle Initiative at a summit in Indonesia. The leaders of six nations will work together to save this marine biodiversity jewel.

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