Weh Island/Aceh, Indonesia

Aceh-Weh, Indonesia Photo
©FakhrizalS etizwan

Weh Island—locally known as "Sabang"—is a small, active volcanic island off Aceh, a state on the northwestern tip of Sumatra, Indonesia. Situated at the convergence of the Indian and Pacific oceans, the coral reefs around Weh teem with a great diversity of fish species. The island’s beaches are a haven for nesting sea turtles, and its waters are full of healthy populations of whale sharks, manta rays, dolphins, and reef sharks.

Fast Facts

  • Aceh is Indonesia’s westernmost state.
  • A rare megamouth shark—so known for its enormous mouth with rubbery lips—was found washed up on Weh Island’s shore in 2004. There have only been 36 findings of megamouth sharks in the Pacific, Indian, and Atlantic oceans since the species was discovered in 1976.
  • Weh is the only known home to a threatened species of toad, Bufo valhallae.
  • Following the Indian Ocean tsunami of December 2004, WCS conducted one of the first on-the-ground ecological assessments of the state of the coral reefs off northwestern Sumatra’s coast.


Weh and Aceh are located in the Andaman Sea, which was greatly affected by the December 2004 earthquake and tsunami. The catastrophe destroyed mangroves in the region and washed debris from the land onto the reefs. Other threats to the reefs include destructive fishing practices, such as the use of dynamite and cyanide, and a marine predator, the crown-of-thorns starfish, which can cause widespread damage to corals during periodic population outbreaks.

WCS Responds

WCS has worked in Indonesia since 1965. We are now working with partners to create a network of marine protected areas (MPAs) designed with community support to protect the outstanding coral reefs and marine wildlife of the Aceh-Weh Seascape. Proposed MPAs include some of the healthiest coral reefs in northern Aceh, turtle nesting beaches, and populations of whale sharks, manta rays, dolphins, and reef sharks.

WCS and our partners continue to monitor the coral reefs around Aceh that were damaged by the tsunami. These reefs have shown strong signs of resilience and stunning recovery of due to the commitment that local communities have made to manage their marine resources.

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.

Regulating Shark & Ray Fisheries

Shark fisheries have expanded in size and number around the world since the mid-1980s to meet the rapidly rising demand for shark fins, meat, and cartilage. Most of these fisheries are unregulated and undocumented. As a result, numerous shark species now face extinction. WCS is working to improve regulation of the global trade in shark products to reverse the decline of these remarkable fishes.

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.

Troubled Waters: Massive Coral Bleaching in IndonesiaAugust 17, 2010

WCS conservationists and their partners document large-scale coral bleaching and death in the wake of rising surface temperatures in the Andaman Sea on the order of a stunning 4 degrees Celsius.

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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