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June 2010    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 36, No. 6   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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At Indonesia’s Triton Bay, the Locals Are Restless

from the June, 2010 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

We’ve heard rumors of liveaboards being waylaid by residents of Triton Bay, in the West Papua province of Indonesia, and a letter from reader Michael Emerson (Minneapolis, MN), who dived in nearby Raja Ampat this spring, explained that there is indeed trouble in paradise.

“Our boat, the Damai, had been in the Triton Bay area and crew members were approached by locals, who demanded a high fee for diving in the area. The boat paid the fee but was then told passengers could not dive there anyway. The locals attempted to take one of the dive dinghies by force but were unsuccessful. As a result, our boat would not dive that area because of the risk. Later, we met the captain of the Arenui, who had similar encounters with the locals. Their interactions were more intense. The boat pilots threatened to harm passengers if a large fee was not paid.

“Apparently the underlying issue concerns who has authority over the area. Because of the remoteness, the Indonesia government and the local government have declined to be involved. Disputes between local groups make the situation worse. We were told most liveaboards would not return there until the situation has been calmed.”

Jenny Collister of dive travel agency Reef & Rainforest confirmed to Undercurrent that the incidents have occurred for a while. “For now, the boats are keeping Triton Bay on their schedule but if looks like bad things are going on, they switch it to Raja Ampat.”

MSY Seahorse owner Txus Reiriz is more positive. “We’ve never found any problem with the locals. They usually come to the boat and ask for petrol in exchange for their fish catch. What we have recently heard is that one ‘smart’ new liveaboard owner went there and started giving money to any local who approached the boat, and I can guess the rest. Hopefully the local authorities will take care of the situation, sooner or later, as they did when it happened in Raja Ampat.”

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