Fighting for ecological justice

Ruined Marine Ecosystem Will Harm People’s Livelihood

By: Sarah R. Megumi

There is no doubt about Indonesia’s superiority in marine and coastal potential. Indonesia, as an archipelagic country, has abundant natural resources. Indonesia should develop this potential as a superior and highly competitive marine tourism destination.

Cipto Aji Gunawan or fondly called Cipto, is a member of Kaoem Telapak who has worked in the marine tourism sector for a long time. He serves as Expert Staff to the Governor of Bali for Tourism. As Expert Staff, Cipto gave much input on sustainable tourism.

Cipto’s love for the sea has grown naturally. In 1996, Cipto worked as a diving instructor for Kaoem Telapak members. He graduated from Doctor American Trinity University and described the sea as a precious asset.

In the beginning, Cipto joined as a member of Kaoem Telapak at an invitation from another member, Ambrosius Ruwindrijarto or who is fondly called Ruwi.

In early 2000 Cipto opened a dive centre in Bali. It all started with a meeting between Cipto and Ruwi around the 2000s when Ruwi came to his office to exchange views on Indonesian marine issues.

Indonesians need to address many urgent maritime problems. Fishing practices that are not environmentally friendly (destructive fishing) are a problem and threat to marine life and the ecosystem.

Destructive fishing is a fishing activity using fishing gear or fishing aids that damage marine and fishery resources, such as fishing using potash poison and using bombs[1].

The impacts of destructive fishing include,

    1) Damaging coral reefs and habitats
    2) Fish mortality of various types and sizes
    3) Life-threatening

For Cipto, doing business by relying on protected nature has become his business guideline.

“I have been involved in sea conservation issues for a long time and witnessed its conditions from the start, so we know the sea is an asset for our work. I believe that if we do business by relying on a well-maintained nature, the business can continue,” said Cipto.

Cipto Aji Gunawan, member of Kaoem Telapak from Bali

In the past, Cipto often invited tourists to do diving activities in the Thousand Islands, DKI Jakarta. But at that time, he encountered many destructive fishing practices.

“Every time I take people diving, I often hear booming sounds under the waters. We know that it’s the sound of a bomb. These sounds are disturbing for diving tourists,” He said.

If destructive fishing activities continue to occur, it will directly impact the depletion of fishery resources and gradually affect the loss of fisher’s sources of livelihood.

According to Cipto, nature and humans have an essential bond. “The importance of doing business is to ensure that nature is maintained. If nature is damaged, I can’t do business. I can’t bring people if nature is damaged, close the rice pot if nature is damaged,” said Cipto.

Therefore, it is necessary to manage and develop sustainable marine tourism. Besides increasing the regional economy, the development of sustainable marine tourism also has positive implications for preserving the marine and coastal environment.

In 2012, Cipto built Sea Communities. Sea Communities is a social enterprise for the villagers of Les to rebuild Les reefs and improve villagers’ livelihoods through marine programs, English teaching and community outreach.

Sea Communities was born when Cipto brought the Australian non-profit marine organization, DiVo (Dive Voluntourism), to the village of Les. They are working with Gede Yudarta, a Les village Indigenous Peoples leader, and the fishing cooperative of Les village to bring the concept of Volunteerism into coral reef rehabilitation efforts initiated by fishermen. Various non-governmental Organizations (NGOs) also have studied the initiatives’ impact and lessons..

According to Cipto, the motivation of people to travel consists of four stages.

    1. They were there and had fun in one location (primarily tourists)
    2. They want to learn. Usually, they will spend more and want to hire a local guide
    3. They want to participate their motivation of the people who travel and participate
    4. They want to participate and contribute (voluntourism)

Volunteerism or volunteer tourism is a tourism concept involving tourists voluntarily financing and carrying out social or conservation activities in various parts of the world.

Voluntourism aims to provide sustainable alternative tourism travel to assist in community development, scientific research or ecological restoration. The tourists take advantage of their holidays with volunteer activities in various projects that interest them. In addition, some pay for their trips and, in some cases, even contribute financially to the projects they are working on.

“I invite friends in America to Les, and we both think about more concrete and serious tourism. Incidentally, a friend from Australia has a travel agent who develops voluntourism products,” said Cipto. Besides outside organizations, marine tourism development in Les Village is inseparable from ideas and broad support, including input from Ruwi.

Desa Les has partnered with several foreign educational institutions in marine scientific research, such as the National University of Singapore (NUS) and Carroll University (USA).

The success of Les Village as a marine tourism destination is inseparable from the role of the local community or Les fisher who are committed to making their area sustainable. Through nature that is awake, many tourists come to visit.

Besides that, the local community or fisher’s characteristics become a basis for developing Les tourism. According to Cipto, fishers are still fishers, and tourism is the value added.

“If there are no fishers, tourism will not work either. My assets are nature and people. I can’t bring people if the environment is damaged,” said Cipto.


    3. ibid
    4. I Gusti Ngurah Agung Suprastayasa. 2011. Pariwisata Relawan (Voluntourism): Perkembangan, Aktivitas dan Masyarakat Lokal. Jurnal Kepariwisataan.
    5. ibid