Research shows that conservation of seagrass in Indonesia protects fisheries, food and important exports

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Research by Swansea University and partners shows that protecting seagrass meadows throughout Indonesia is critical for national food security and important fisheries exports.

The research by scientists at Seagrass Ecosystems Research Group at Swansea and Cardiff Universities and in collaboration with an Indonesian NGO (FORKANI) and the Wildlife Conservation Society has examined how seagrass meadows that are a globally threatened ecosystem are important for marine fisheries throughout Indonesia.

The recent surveys conducted in the Wakatobi National Park in SE Sulawesi build on previous case studies by the authors in Indonesia and throughout the Indo-Pacific that clearly show how seagrass is both locally threatened as well as being a source of hugely important local food.

Fish in abundance in a healthy tropical seagrass meadow 

Seagrass with fish

The recent studies that included in water fish surveys, fisheries landing surveys and household interviews found that at least 407 species of fish are present in Indonesian seagrass meadows and that in the Wakatobi 68% of fishing activity is in seagrass. Fisheries surveys also revealed that 62% of fish caught use seagrass meadows. Of significance was the favoured status of seagrass fish species such as the White-spotted spinefoot (Siganuscanaliculatus) known locally as ‘Kola’. 60% of people favoured fish species that use seagrass meadows as habitat.

Explaining the significance of the research, Dr Richard Unsworth said: “This case study in the Wakatobi highlights the role of seagrasses in supplying every day food needs to local people. Unfortunately these important seagrass meadows in the Wakatobi and throughout Indonesia are being degraded at an alarming rate from a range of diverse factors including poor water quality, coastal development and destructive fishing practices. Seagrass meadows need to be placed high on the Indonesian conservation agenda, not just to protect biodiversity but to protect national food security and economically important fisheries exports”.

Child fishing for Urchins and Porcupine fish in seagrass in the Wakatobi National Park

Seagrass indonesian boy


  • Seagrass meadows are the ‘Prairies of the Sea’. They are highly productive shallow water marine and coastal habitats comprised of marine plants. These threatened habitats provide important food and shelter for animals in the sea. In Indonesia there is over 30000km2 of seagrass. Seagrass is also important for storing carbon, pumping oxygen into the air and protecting Indonesia’s coasts from erosion.



  • For further information about the study email Dr Unsworth at:

  • Additional information about our research group is available at

  • The research team comprises an interdisciplinary group of scientists from Swansea University, Cardiff University, the Wildlife Conservation Society and FORKANI and have been funded by the Waterloo Foundation.