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Monitoring and Research

Coral Monitoring and Rehabilitation
Fish Monitoring

Cetacean Monitoring

Resource Use

Geographic Information System


An on-going coral reef monitoringprogram provides information on spatial and temporal patterns in reef status and recovery inside and outside the Park.  An intensive survey of the coral reefs (185 sites) made every two years, enables mapping of damage caused by destructive fishing methods and other threats. All sites are surveyed by snorkeling (at 4 m deep) and by SCUBA diving (at 8 m and at 12 m deep). Five observations are made at each depth and each observation lasts four minutes. After each four minute swim, the observer records the estimated percentages of four habitat categories:

  • live hard coral 
  • dead hard coral
  • soft coral
  • other (rock, sand, sponges, tunicates, algae, weeds, anemones, clams, etc.)

The results show that overall destruction of the coral reefs in and around the Park appears to have stopped as of 1996, and that a slow recovery (2% increase in hard coral cover per year) has started. This is most likely the result of the enormous decline in dynamite fishing in the area since early 1996. Reef recovery is fastest near the center of protective activity, which is in the town of Labuan Bajo, outside Park boundaries.

In areas where coral reefs have been severely degraded by destructive fishing practices and are unlikely to return to their original condition without intervention, restoration efforts are undertaken in cooperation with the University of California at Berkeley. These are most commonly areas where there is a strong current and no hard substrate.  Preliminary data indicate that the provision of hard substrate  in damaged areas greatly increases the rate of coral recovery.


Grouper and Napoleon Wrasses spawningare being monitored to provide information on trends in the populations of economically important fish species, and to obtain feedback on the effects of management activities. The current fish monitoring program focuses on 12 key species out of two families: the Serranidae(wrasses). These species have been heavily targeted by the commercial fisheries and can therefore serve as indicators for the impact of these fisheries. Data are collected to a) determine if and how fish populations are changing over time and in space and b) identify spawning locations and spawning seasons for key fish species. 

The fish monitoring program is a continuous program with monitoring activities taking place twice every month.  Since March 1998, six spawning sites have been monitored twice a month, once during the new moon and once during the full moon. Each site is searched for target fish at a specific depth profile, which has been established for that site.

Preliminary results indicate that different species spawn at different lunar phases. The main spawningseason for target species is from October to January, with small differences between species. Different species use the spawning sites at different moon phases and many other reef species, including important food and ornamental fishes use the same spawning sites. All spawning sites have strong currents directed away from the reef.

Fishermen supplying the live reef fish trade all target the spawningsites in Komodo National Park. If fishermen identify the aggregation sites and the sites are not protected effectively, they will probably be fished out within 1 or 2 seasons. The few sites with spawning populations of the main target species in the live reef fish trade are of great importance to the Park's function as a source of recruits for surrounding fishing grounds. The spawning sites in the Park need to be fully protected and therefore need to be embedded well within the borders of the no-take zones.


Cetacean monitoring is a recently added component of the marine resource management strategy in the Park. In May and October 1999 a survey took place to identify species, distribution patterns and breeding areas of cetaceans in the waters of Komodo National Park.  In total, at least 15 cetacean species were sighted during 207 active survey hours conducted over 26 days. These species included the long-nosed spinner dolphin, bottlenosed dolphin, pan-tropical spotted dolphin, melon-headed whale, Risso's dolphin, Fraser's and rough-toothed dolphins, false and pygmy killer whales, the sperm whale, pygmy sperm wh ale, the Cuvier's beaked whale and a rorqual baleen whale (Balaenoptera sp.) which may be regionally distinct for other known whale species in the area.

Each year cetaceans travel from the tropical Pacific and Indian Oceans through Indonesian waters, and vice versa. To do so, most will have to pass the narrow yet deep inter-island passages of the Nusa Tengarra island chain in eastern Indonesia. Komodo National Park includes three of these sensitive bottleneck passages: Selat Molo, Selat Linta and Selat Sape. However, migratory cetaceans which include these passages in their local or long-range movements are vulnerable to numerous environmental impacts such as subsurface noise disturbances caused by blast fishing, net entanglement, and  marine pollution. Most, if not all, of these impacts occur in the waters of the Park. As a result of this study, efforts are being made to alter the Park's borders to accommodate the cetaceans migratory routes to better protect them from outside threats.


In order for Park management to succeed it is essential to determine resource use patterns throughout Komodo National Park. Fishermen working in and around the Park use a variety of fishing techniques and equipment. Some methods and types of equipment are destructive and degrade the Park’s resources. The threat of illegal destructive fishing methods is a major problem, which needs to be addressed in order to protect the marine habitats of the Park. A patrolling program was started on 28 May 1996, with Conservancy and Park staff trained to record data on resource use.

The objectives of this monitoring program are to determine which community groups are involved in which fishing activities, where they fish, and when they fish. Over time this data will also show any changes in the behavior of fishermen and it will indicate which groups of fishermen or areas in the Park need extra attention. Each  fishing vessel or fishing group encountered during the routine patrols is investigated, except bagans (the local pelagic lift-net), which are excluded since they operate only at night (with lights) and they form a separate type of pelagic fishery which is not currently considered threatening to the marine resources of the Park. Bagan is the most important gear type used in the Park and accounts for the major part of fishing revenues.  Data collected from fishing vessels encountered during patrols include:

  • date and position (using GPS coordinates),  
  • type of boat and engine according to categories,  
  • number of fishermen on the boat or in the fishing group,  
  • method or fishing gear according to categories,  
  • species in the catch according to categories,
  • quantity and quality of the catch according to categories, and 
  • origin of the fishing vessel or group according to categories.

This information has led to the design of a zoning and regulation scheme for the Park in such a way that objectives can be achieved with a minimum of conflict with local resource users.  The routine patrolling program has led to a significant decline in destructive fishing practices, and should be maintained. The primary threat comes from outside communities in Sape, South Flores and Sulawesi. Local communities pose less of a threat, since they generally use 'bagan' lift-nets that are not destructive to the coral reef ecosystem. The bagan fishery of local communities should also be monitored in the future, to avoid over-fishing and collapse of stocks of small pelagic fish.    


The capability to collect, store, analyze and communicate information is crucial to reach the conservation goals of Komodo National Park.  Previously the Park collected and used geographic information stored in a variety of ways: as hand-drawn or printed maps, as tables (on paper or digitized in spreadsheet programs), or simply as geo-referenced text in reports.  As the amount of geographic information grew, the Park needed a new system so The Nature Conservancy implemented a Geographic Information System (GIS).  

A GIS is a computer system for the handling of geographic information.  There are many potential applications of GIS, which can be grouped into three general categories-data management, map production, and spatial analysis.  It allows larger image files to be processed and provides for greater integration of geographical information.

The basis of the Komodo GIS is a scanned part of the nautical map of the Komodo area.  It features the islands in the Komodo area, geographic names, isobaths (5, 10, 20 and 200 m), depth soundings, and shallow coral reefs.  The scanned map is used as a background on which features (e.g. coral monitoring sites, ranger sites) are plotted.

The implementation of a GIS in the Park greatly assists with the mapping needs of the TNC Komodo Field Office and the Indonesian Dept. of Nature Conservation (PKA) Komodo National Park Office. The GIS provides crucial information for reaching many of the parks objectives including: 

  • producing maps of coral damage caused by blast fishing
  • producing maps of resource use (e.g. fishing, sea grass harvesting)
  • identifying potential grouper spawning sites
  • assisting in the spatial analysis of change in resource use and coral damage
  • collecting and storing satellite imagery
  • integrating spatial knowledge more efficiently 



This site is maintained by the Directorate General for Nature Protection and Conservation (PHKA) and The Nature Conservancy, Coastal & Marine Program - Indonesia.