Archive for misool eco resort

Shark Boat – Sanctuary Under Siege

Posted in conservation, news, photography, travel with tags , , , , , , , on May 20, 2011 by shawnheinrichs

Misool Eco Resort, located in Southeast Raja Ampat, operates a locally manned Ranger Patrol to enforce the boundaries of the 168 sq. mile Misool Conservation Area (MCA) and the recently established second MCA for the 150 sq. miles surrounding the adjacent Daram Islands.

Six years into the MCA projects, and thanks to the efforts the reefs today are bursting with an incredible diversity and abundance of marine life and even shark populations are staging a remarkable comeback after decades of ruthless shark finning. The resurgence of sharks and rays inside the two protected areas has made the corridor linking the protected areas very alluring to fishermen seeking to illegally exploit the spillover from the MCAs.

This April I returned to Raja Ampat with a team of manta researchers and my investigative teammate Paul Hilton. Early one morning while in route to the manta site we observed a suspicious boat in the corridor. After radioing the Ranger Patrol we approached the boat and boarded it. On the roof of the boat, the disembodied heads of almost two-dozen scalloped hammerheads, a dozen grey reef sharks, and a dozen guitar rays and bow guitar mouth rays. Most disturbingly, the lifeless bodies of several mature grey reef sharks and a large guitar ray lay piled on front. Our captain informed the captain of the shark boat that he was illegally fishing sharks and rays (Raja Ampat is now a Shark and Ray Sanctuary) and that he must cease and leave the area immediately. Sadly, once these nets are in the water, the damage from gill nets is unavoidable.

Yard after yard of gillnet rolled up the side of the boat. The lifeless carcass of grey reef shark broke the surface and was hoisted aboard. It was clear that this shark had struggled for a long time and had ultimately died from suffocation. Several more lifeless reef sharks were hauled aboard and our hope of rescuing sharks turned to despair. Then the dark shape of a large guitar ray appeared and realizing it was still alive, we raced to free it. The team hoisted the massive ray aboard the boat, untangled it and released it. This rescued effort was followed by the successful release of a bow-mouth ray, another guitar ray, a wobbegong shark, and a pelagic stingray or two. All in all, we freed and released half a dozen live animals.

Our ranger boat arrived and took over the enforcement effort. Recognizing our work was finished; we untied from the fishing boat and pulled away. As I took stock of all day’s events, I was reminded that conservation is much more than a stand-alone victory, more than a one-time culmination of effort and intention.  Effective conservation is a lifetime commitment requiring constant care and vigilance.  To believe otherwise is to not only court disillusionment and failure, but also to imperil our most treasured resources.

–       Shawn Heinrichs

You can do your part to support true marine conservation:

–       Visit Misool Eco Resort ( and put your ecotourism dollars to work

–       Go to and donate to the patrol

–       Go to and and help end the slaughter of sharks

Hunting Mobulas of Misool

Posted in production, travel, video with tags , , , , , , , on October 12, 2009 by shawnheinrichs

I just received an update from Marit at Misool Eco Resort in Raja Ampat. Looks like this year the anchovy shoals have arrived in full force. Feeding on them are squadrons of Mubula Rays, pelagic fish and sharks. I was there last year during this season and what I witnessed rivaled the baitballs of Cocos and Sardine Run. Below is an update from Marit and a quick video I shot of some of the hunting action.

From Marit:

“September sees the annual migration of anchovies north from the Banda sea to Misool in southern Raja Ampat. This year has been a bumper season with huge numbers schooling on the reefs all  around Misool Eco Resort. Since the inception of MER’s no take zone, none of the anchovy fishing boats are around. Good news for divers. The anchovies don’t come alone. Schooling Mobula rays of up to 50 individuals round up the anchovies into bait balls then storm in for the attack. Spanish mackerel, giant travelies, schools of jacks, tunas and sharks are all there for the feast.

Swimming out from the wall, divers instantly are surrounded by the pulsating mass of fishes, sometimes so thick that you lose sight of the reef just feet away. It’s a mesmerizing sight with so many fish moving in unison, alternatively flashing on and off as they catch the light each time they turn. The action goes on well into the new year as the mobula and hunting fish feast on their abundant prey.”

Daram Marine Reserve

Posted in conservation, news, video with tags , , , , , , , on September 10, 2009 by shawnheinrichs

The Raja Ampat Islands are situated in the north west of Papua, Indonesia, and cover an area of approximately 6,962 sq. km. Situated in the heart of the coral triangle, the area is home to some of the worlds most bio-diverse reef communities with recent studies stating that the reefs of this area are perhaps at the very centre of world bio-diversity. We intend to protect a total area of 450 sq. miles within this region that contains some of its most pristine reefs.

Significant groundwork has been laid toward this end including:

  • Established marine protected area of approximately 200 sq. miles that will be included in this area
  • Existing marine protected area is absolute no-take zone as will be the new marine reserve
  • Implemented management and patrol system with an impressive 3 year track record
  • Obtained buy-in and participation of local community in its protection and maintenance
  • Created financial model to insure local community shares in the success of the new marine reserve
  • Established a patrol and enforcement plan that will assure the sanctity of the marine reserve
  • Obtained head of fisheries endorsement and commitment to zone the marine reserve as tourism only
  • On the ground presence to oversea establishment and operations of reserve
  • NGO partners to provide administrative, training and scientific support

With much of the groundwork laid to establish the Daram Marine Reserve, we are now seeking funding to enable us implement the plan. This incredible area is under immediate and severe threat of ruin from destructive fishing practices that have encroached upon the area. As such, there is little time to waste in setting up the reserve. We must act fast or risk losing one of the most pristine, bio-diverse and beautiful reef systems left on earth.

Daram Marine Reserve Video



Misool Eco Resort – New Promo Video

Posted in conservation, photography, video with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 15, 2009 by shawnheinrichs

With Misool Eco Resort fully operational, it was time to refresh it’s promotional video. After many visits and hours or filming through the archipelago, I had amassed an impressive library of underwater footage. In addition I had the opportunity to film the resort grounds, facilities and luxurious accommodations.

The surface and underwater elements were assembled into new video which showcases the marine treasures and resort comforts of Misool Eco Resort. Hunting mobulas, swirling mantas, sharks, turtles, blue ring octopus, mantis shrimp and much, much more fill the screen for the 15 minute duration of video.

CNN Planet In Peril – AC360 Blog

Posted in conservation, news, travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on December 10, 2008 by shawnheinrichs

Program Note: CNN’s award-winning Planet in Peril returns this year to examine the conflict between growing populations and natural resources. Anderson Cooper, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and Lisa Ling travel to the front lines of this worldwide battle.

We devote several days on the blog to smart insight and commentary related to the special.

The world needed to see what I witnessing

Shawn Heinrichs

Founder & Executive Producer, Blue Sphere Media

I broke the surface having just completed the last day of diving on some of the most incredible reefs I had ever seen. Floating in the deep blue waters, I looked around and surveyed the dozens of forest covered limestone islands that surrounded me.

This was truly one of the most beautiful places on earth. I was filming the reefs in Raja Ampat off the western tip of Papua in Indonesia, one of the most remote and biologically diverse marine ecosystems on the planet.

Cruising back to our camp, we noticed a small fishing boat anchored in a shallow lagoon within the protected area. Curious, we decided to investigate. As we drew near, we made a grizzly discovery. On the blood soaked deck, covered with buzzing flies, were dozens and dozens of shark fins that had recently been sliced off of small reef sharks.

Looking into the water, an odd shape at the bottom caught our attention. Immediately we identified it as the body of a shark. It took all my willpower to control my feelings of anger and frustration. And then I recalled, where sharks should have been abundant on every protected reef, we had not seen sharks the entire week. Now it was clear why. It was also immediately clear what I had to do.

The world needed to see what I was witnessing.

Flipping my video camera on, I documented the gruesome reality of what lay strewn before me: the fins, the blood, the flies, grisly contradictions to these magnificent surroundings.

Loading my camera into my underwater housing, I threw on my snorkel gear and slipped into the water. Below me strewn across coral reef were a dozen, dead juvenile reef sharks rolling gently with the current. Descending down, my stomach turned as I saw the blood seeping from wounds where their fins had been. These beautiful sharks had been ruthlessly sliced and thrown overboard to drown, killed just for their fins.

After filming all I could stomach, I returned to the boat. Enraged, I wanted to do something. Certainly this reckless harvesting must be illegal. Our guide Andy then informed me that the fisherman had presented a legal shark fishing permit which for $30 granted him the right to fin sharks for 30 days. Quick math revealed 10 sharks per day times 30 days, or 300 sharks for $30.

Ten cents a shark!

This was the price for the life of each of the juvenile reef sharks below me on the reef. But what was the cost on the marine ecosystem and the local community that depended on it?

Something changed in me that day, something that would grow inside and drive me to dedicate my life to ending the short-sighted destruction of marine environments and first and foremost, by halting the shark fin trade.

So much of what I have learned about the oceans, I have learned while diving and filming. Much of what we watch, read and hear about marine life is only a shadow of the reality. For many people, the closest they come to this world is a seafood restaurant or sushi bar.

Take sharks for instance, one of my favorite subjects. We are taught to believe sharks are mindless killers, that even a drop of blood will send them into a feeding frenzy and that most species of sharks are “man-eaters”.

These myths couldn’t be farther from the truth. I have drifted with schools of over 500 hammerhead sharks and watched as 100 reef sharks formed hunting packs at night. I have knelt within touching distance while a dozen bull sharks, some more than 1000 pounds and 11-feet long, fed on fish. In all my dives with sharks, I never witnessed a deliberate attempt by a shark to injure or kill.

Sadly, however, I have also watched sharks disappear from the oceans. Sharks were once plentiful, but they have effectively vanished from all but a few remaining sanctuaries. And even within these “sanctuaries” they are being systematically targeted and killed for their fins. Fins!

Fins make up less than 3-5 percent of a sharks’ total mass, the other 95 percent is either thrown back in the ocean or used as a cheap by-product. Only small strands of cartilage from the fin are used, the rest discarded as trash. These cartilage strands are boiled and used as a flavorless thickener, like thin noodles, in a watery soup flavored by chicken stock. Shark Fin Soup.

Once popular on special occasions among the ultra-elite in Asia, the recent economic boom in China coupled with intense marketing by the shark fin trade, has fueled an explosion in demand for the soup.

More than 100 million sharks are killed every year primarily for their fins. In the past 20 years, many of the great shark species populations have been reduced by more than 90 percent. If nothing changes, sharks are heading on a one way road to extinction.

So what if we remove sharks? Slow to grow and slow to reproduce, sharks have perfectly evolved for 400 million years to keep our oceans in balance by removing the sick and managing populations. Remove the sharks and the populations of faster growing predatory fish they control explode and wipe out successive layers in the food chain.

The ecosystem has been in place for more than 400 million years, but man is wiping it out in less than 50 years. Close to 1 billion people depend upon the ocean for their livelihoods and survival. What will happen when these people lose their jobs or go hungry? That is why sharks matter.

In the developed world, our consumption behavior is disconnected from its impact on the environment. Most of us don’t know where our fish comes from, how it is caught or raised, and what waste products it produces. The oceans are being effectively strip-mined, by some of the most destructive and wasteful fishing practices imaginable.

The result: sharks along with all other large species of fish have been largely fished out of most of the seas with hardly any notice or public outcry. And now, we are fishing our way down, removing successive layers in the food chain.

As part of my documentary I am filming on the global shark fin trade, I spent a week in Raja Ampat. This region was once one of the most ecologically diverse and pristine marine ecosystems left on earth. Just a few years ago long-line fishermen were pulling out a dozen or so 1.5 meter long reef sharks in a single day, but now they catch almost nothing except a handful of baby sharks each week.

Most of the shark fishermen have moved on to find new shark fishing grounds. The shark fishermen that remain now use miles of bottom drift nets instead of lines. These nets scrape off the coral reefs and catch everything in their path including baby sharks, reef fish, turtles, rays and manta rays. The situation has clearly hit rock bottom for sharks and the outlook for the rest of the ecosystem is not good.

After a week of documenting desperate fishermen plunder their dwindling resources, I spent the latter part of my visit filming in the Marine Protected Area surrounding Misool Eco Resort, where I had originally encountered shark finning.

A few years ago, I saw no sharks in this region, but now I observed young reef sharks patrolling the walls and reefs. And a dozen juvenile black tip reef sharks were hunting in the shallows. The local villages that once fished these waters were now employed at the resort and as rangers. They were partners in the protection of their reefs. Their jobs and the entire marine protected area were funded through dive eco-tourism. A far more sustainable way to profit from the oceans.

The unique combination of marine protection, community involvement and sustainable tourism can turn the tide on a seemingly impossible situation, a beacon of hope for our oceans in peril.

Even in a short period of time, the transformation can be significant. And the more people that consciously choose to become part of the solution, the more global the impact.


Editor’s Note: Shawn is a scuba diver, cinematographer, and marine conservationist, working to protect the environment. As an independent filmmaker and founder of Blue Sphere Media, a production company specializing in underwater and adventure films, he has a unique opportunity to influence our collective mind set and globally fuel the ‘blue movement.’ His award-winning work has been featured in broadcast, promotional and conservation productions around the world. In addition, he is a published conservation photo journalist.

UPDATE FROM SHAWN: A lot of people have been asking me how they can learn more and get involved. Here are some organizations that I am am working with today, each focusing on a unique aspect of the shark finning issue:

Leading the charge:


Join a movement:

Direct action:


Get involved and make a difference!


TNC Speaker – MPA Global Workshop

Posted in conservation, news with tags , , , , , on June 19, 2008 by shawnheinrichs

At the invitation of The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and Conservation International (CI), I presented a case study in June 2008 workshop, A Private Sector Approach – Conservation Agreements in Support of Marine Protection. The information below is a short abstract of the case study. A complete case study will be posted on the toolkit prior to October 2008.

Misool Eco Resort (MER) is located in the remote southern part of Raja Ampat, Indonesia. The small resort is located on the island of Batbitim, deep in a vast archipelago of uninhabited islands, 240 kilometers from the nearest resort and half a day’s journey from the nearest village. Misool Eco Resort is deeply committed to a policy of environmental and social responsibility. We seek to provide exceptional and enriching diving experiences in a sustainable environment.

We aim to protect and revitalize both our natural surroundings and the community in which we operate. We are committed to demonstrating to our hosts, our guests, and the local government that tourism can support a local economy on much more favorable terms than mining, logging, overfishing, or shark finning. In doing so, MER entered into a lease agreement with the local community to establish a 200 square km Marine Protected Area (no-take zone) surrounding Misool Eco Resort. Within this area, all fishing, shark finning, harvesting of turtle eggs and shellfish are strictly prohibited. We also require all boats to practice reef-safe anchoring. We regularly patrol the area for illegal fishing and shark finning.

In addition, the Misool Conservation Centre is being registered as a UK-charity, and will provide a well equipped, functional base for scientific research and conservation projects, both social and environmental.

Perhaps most importantly, MER is dedicated to safeguarding the local community in which we operate. Our labor force, drawn largely from the closest village, is offered favorable working conditions, health benefits, job training, and English lessons.

Website: – Misool

Misool Eco Resort – Documenting Progress

Posted in conservation, production, travel, video with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 15, 2007 by shawnheinrichs

I returned to Raja Ampat to continue documenting the vast treasures of this amazing archipelago. This time we focused on some of the hidden treasures that only a lucky few have had the opportunity to explore. Among these were the fresh/brackish limestone lakes hidden in the interior forests of certain island. Marine life isolated for an unknown duration abound in these lakes. More to come on this in the next visit.

As always, the diversity and sheer quantity of marine life was staggering. On the house reef alone we filmed a school of over 100 bumphead parrot fish, turtles, napoleon wrasse, numerous macro critters, hunting octopus, and at least five walking sharks!

We documented the resort construction progress which has been fantastic.  The over-the-water bungalows are five star and offer some of the most scenic accommodations imaginable. The restaurant is a work of art. When the resort opens in October of 2008, the guest are going to be treated to an incredible experience.

Finally, we continued our work on the threats facing Raja Ampat. Among the unfortunate activities we documented were camps or shark finners, finned sharks, drying fins, a live turtle slaughtered and destructive fishing. Though much of Raja Ampat is still pristine, these threats could have a significant impact on the future health of the ecosystem if not stopped. With the ranger boat coming soon this will be stopped!