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Newsletter April 2021

A Surprise at Tayandu

By Lida Pet-Soede. Photos by Varsha, Guillaume, Foued, Alex & Lida.

Our "EPIC 1" sojourn of November 2020 was going to be hard to beat, but taking the long route home from Papua to Komodo, "EPIC 2" held a lot of promise. Doing their homework first, Mark and Jos checked old notes and asked around a bit. Counting on Ricardo Ondina's extensive experience exploring eastern Indonesia, his review "good to the west" about a seamount in the Tayandu Island group was enough reason to go and have a look. Google satellite and the Indonesian sea charts showed extensive reef flats, white sandy beaches and some interesting sea mounts, all part of this group of remote islands in the Moluccas. We were not disappointed!

A small group of marine conservation and tourism professionals would gather and board the Seven Seas in Sorong for a month of adventure. Flying from Bali via Jakarta to Sorong, we checked the news and saw that a storm was developing in the area where we were going. It moved south-west, caused havoc for people in Kupang and Adonara, but we were lucky with flat seas and dramatic sunsets each evening while still up North. Island hopping from Misool to Pisang and down the Bird's Head of West Papua to Momon, we visited stunning beaches and had some amazing dives. We swam with oceanic mantas and got drenched under the Momon waterfall, dumping massive volumes of the clearest freshwater on us, straight from the pristine forest that rises up here from the coast. Next, we visited the whale sharks in Namatota, were swept along with a high-speed current over the most amazing soft coral ridge at Pintu Arus in Triton Bay. For a grand finale at the Papua mainland, we had a fantastic dive at Dramai, with incredible fish around dramatic rock formations. In the course of only 5 days, I felt I'd been holidaying for a month already.

After paying various fees to government and villages to be around some of the bays and reefs in west papua, however, some anxiety had been building as we got closer to the Tayandu island group. The Seven Seas crew had heard stories about crew of other liveaboard vessels 'taken hostage' over misunderstandings related to reporting procedures here (or there) and over uncertainty about what was expected to be paid to anchor, snorkel, or dive. Arriving early in the morning, Captain Rivai gave the green light to lower the tenders and Helmy, one of our fellow adventurers, fisheries research assistant for People and Nature Consulting, and born in the Moluccas, joined the crew to report on land. We should not have been worried. Welcoming us with enthusiasm, the head of one of the villages said that the community ensures to keep the reefs free from bombing, and while not many liveaboard vessels visit the area, he thought that we might enjoy the diving.


On the Way to Lucipara

By Lida Pet-Soede. Photos & Video by Tommy Schultz.

Waiting for the results of the rapid tests in Ambon, I glance through the amazing pictures by Tommy Schultz, made when we both visited the Lucipara and Penyu islands in November 2019. The whole world has changed since, and I feel even more privileged to be able to go out there and see whether the reefs are still as beautiful as then, if turtles are as abundant and also nesting now in April, and whether the brazen juvenile grey reef sharks who almost chased me out the water have grown up.

The Lucipara and Penyu islands are located 200 km south of Ambon in the middle of the Banda Sea. Kepulauan Lucipara is also known as Lousapara Islands, Lucapin Islands, Lucipara Eilanden, Lusipari Islands, and Pulau-pulau Lucipara. The islands can only be reached by boat during a few months each year during the change of the monsoon. It will take us approximately 15 hours to get there.

Famous for its resident seaturtles, the island group has been identified by the local government to become a marine protected area, but there are not many descriptions of the current status. In 2019 a small group of adventurers boarded the MV Oceanic to have a look. A marine scientist from the University in Ambon, our friend and manager of Tubbataha National Park that encloses a very special and remote group of islands in the Philippines, a few afficionados of underwater Indonesia, Mark Heighes - who explored the islands a few decades ago, Oceanic's Ricardo and yours truly.


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The Tunas of Banda

By Peter Mous.

Yesterday, Bas called me. Bas works for a fish trading company, and he was wondering about the recent drop in the supply of high-quality yellowfin tuna Thunnus albacares, known in Indonesia as madidihang. As a fisheries expert, I am always both flattered and embarrassed by such questions: Flattered, because the trade seems to value the insights gained from the sustainable fisheries program that I work for. And embarrassed because it's often so difficult to provide a straightforward answer (and beware those experts who do provide a straightforward answer!). Bas's predicament is that he promised his clients boxes of high-quality tuna, but that the fishers don't catch any. The fishers say that there seem to be few tuna around... what's going on here, Dr Mous?

Well, the tuna trade is all about securing supply from an ecosystem that is highly variable. Tuna supply lines are of mind-boggling complexity, and I am amazed that it all results in continuous presence of sashimi at restaurants and of canned tuna at supermarkets worldwide. Consumers worldwide take tuna for granted, but I certainly don't. The continuous presence of tuna on the global market is probably the only aspect of a tuna that is "continuous" - everything else is a whirlpool of events and processes.

First, let's have a look at the habitat of yellowfin tuna: The open waters of the world's tropical oceans, where depth is measured in kilometers rather than meters. The Banda Sea, where the Seven Seas took us, is rather exceptional, since it features deep seas as well as isolated, often volcanic islands rising up from the deep. My theory is that yellowfin tuna have an innate drive to orient themselves to a fixed reference point, and that the small islands of Banda serve that purpose for tuna. Fixed reference points are a scarce asset in the open ocean, as the bottom is too deep to keep an eye on. As a result, yellowfin tuna deal with current, sometimes strong current, 24 hours per day usually without noticing it! As a SCUBA diver, when you descent in blue water, you can experience this first-hand: If the bottom is not yet in sight, then the universe moves along with you and you loose any reference to a "fixed" location. That's pretty annoying if you are diving a deep wreck and you know there is a current but you forgot to take a bearing at the surface. You want to swim hard against the current while descending, but you cannot tell any more what way it is going!Kepulauan Lucipara is also known as Lousapara Islands, Lucapin Islands, Lucipara Eilanden, Lusipari Islands, and Pulau-pulau Lucipara. The islands can only be reached by boat during a few months each year during the change of the monsoon. It will take us approximately 15 hours to get there.


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The Seven Seas - Pertokoan Simpang Siur (Kuta Poleng) C1 - Jl. Setiabudi
Kuta, Badung 80361 - Bali - Indonesia

© The Seven Seas 2021

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