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Pak Syafri: A Profile of the Director of Raja Ampat’s MPA unit (UPTD) by Susan Vulpas

This is the third post in the series, introducing the “team” charged with conservation in the BHS.  These are the unsung heroes that you and the Bird’s Head Seascape depend on!

Meet Pak Syafri, director of Raja Ampat’s MPA Management Unit (Unit Pelaksana Teknis Daerah – UPTD)!

Born and raised in Makassar, South Sulawesi, Pak Syafri’s journey to the Bird’s Head is well traveled.  After completing a bachelor’s degree in fisheries at Makassar’s College of Marine Technology (Sekolah Tinggi Teknologi Kelautan – STITEK), he moved to Jayapura (capitol of Papua Province) to take an outreach job with the Papuan provincial government. A few months later, Pak Syafri was relocated to Ayamaru in West Papua province. For the next two years he made frequent visits to nearby villages, spearheading diverse small projects including health and family planning, farming and education for the communities.

Pak Syafri “al fresco” meeting with local villagers

Next his work took him to Sorong where he focused on marine conservation. His first job was as a Community-based Management Coordinator, then later he forged a partnership with COREMAP (a program that provides essential information about coral reef ecosystems to the communities that depend on them). These professional experiences, under Sorong Regency’s Department for Marine and Fisheries (DKP), prepared him well to eventually lead the DKP. By helping facilitate the growth of 40 small, restricted marine-use areas into the 4.6 million hectares of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in the BHS today, the DKP secured the regency and local regulations required to permanently establish the MPAs.

As the Raja Ampat’s MPAs were developing, so too was tourism. In 2008, knowing that his work followed the path of others, he brought leaders from Raja Ampat to Bunaken National Park in Manado, North Sulawesi to study how tourism was implemented there.  Within 10 short years, Raja Ampat has become one of the world’s top tourism and diving destinations.

Throughout Pak Syafri’s career, he spent significant time with local communities hearing many anecdotal stories about the benefits Raja’s MPAs have had on the marine environment and local economy.  Since the implementation of the MPA’s, locals speak of their improved economic status and fishers now report catches much closer to their villages; reducing the distance, time and resources they must travel to feed their families.

Pak Syafri heads a discussion for community leaders

Pac Syafri fell in love with Papua, married, and raised three children there. He and his wife still live in Waisai (capitol of Raja Ampat Regency).  In 2018, only recently retired from DKP, he was recruited as head of the MPA Management Unit (UPTD) to lead their efforts in protecting the biota and habitats of Raja Ampat.

We (divers, tourists and especially the local communities) are blessed to have Pak Syafri leading Raja’s MPA programs.  He deserves our thanks and support.

Susan Vulpas is Conservation International’s Marine Programs Coordinator, Indonesia.

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