Wakatobi and Adjacent Waters IMMA
Size in Square Kilometres
26 815 km2
Qualifying Species and Criteria
Sperm whale – Physeter macrocephalus
Criterion A; C (2)
Spinner dolphin – Stenella longirostris
Criterion B (2); C (2)
Marine Mammal Diversity
Criterion D (2)
Balaenoptera musculus, Ziphius cavirostris, Peponocephala electra, Tursiops truncatus, Grampus griseus, Stenella attenuata, Stenella longirostris, Physeter macrocephalus, Balaenoptera edeni, Globicephala macrorhynchus, Tursiops aduncus
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The Wakatobi area is situated between the Banda and Flores Seas, southeast Sulawesi, Indonesia. Wakatobi and its adjacent waters are formed of the four main Tukangbesi Islands in the archipelago including Wangi-wangi, Kaledupa, Tomia, and Binongko (Wa-ka-to-bi). This area is characterised by a highly variable submarine landscapes and channels between major islands that act as habitat for sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus). This area is also an important habitat for spinner dolphins (Stenella longirostris), of which a significant number of individuals have been observed across multiple years of study. A concentration of both species occurs here and their habitat use has been confirmed via spatial modelling studies of their habitats. The area contains an important diversity of cetacean species for the region, of which at least 11 marine mammal species have been observed utilising the area of Wakatobi and its adjacent waters.
Description of Qualifying Criteria
Criterion A – Species or Population Vulnerability
The Sperm whale is assessed as Vulnerable A1d (Taylor et al., 2008) on the IUCN Red List, and was targeted in historical whaling in Indonesia (Sahri et al., 2020b). In Wakatobi, the sperm whales are commonly found in the northern part of the Wangi-Wangi Islands and east part of Wakatobi waters where deep channels pass between landmasses (Sahri et al., 2020c). Besides occupying the deep channels of Wakatobi, the species also tends to avoid shallow reefs (Sahri et al., 2021). The Indonesian government has classed sperm whales, along with all marine mammals, as a fully protected species (Government of The Republic of Indonesia, 1999; Sahri et al., 2020a).
Criterion B: Distribution and Abundance
Sub-criterion B2: Aggregations
According to monitoring data from 2006-2012 conducted in the region (Sahri et al. 2020c), large aggregations of >100 individual bottlenose and spinner dolphins were frequently recorded in the area. Distribution of sightings indicate that bottlenose and spinner dolphins regularly utilize all parts of Wakatobi waters. This further indicates that Wakatobi waters and the habitats therein function to aggregate the species into groups of significant numbers.
Criterion C: Key Life Cycle Activities
Sub-criterion C2: Feeding Areas
The Wakatobi area has highly variable submarine landscapes with drop-offs and channels between major islands. Sperm whales are most abundant in the north of Wangi-Wangi Island (Sahri et al., 2014; 2020c) where the slope edges and drop-offs are located. These features are associated with upwelling points that force nutrient circulation, greater productivity and aggregate prey, creating a very good habitat for this squid-eating deep-diving species. From Maxent habitat modelling, the distribution of sperm whale in Wakatobi was determined by chlorophyl concentration in the area (Sahri et al., 2021). Oceanographic features (e.g. upwelling current, bathymetric slopes, thermal fronts and mesoscale eddies) support high-densities of prey. Feeding behaviour has also been observed for spinner dolphins in this area. This was validated by direct observation with this species actively feeding at surface on schooling baby skipjack tuna and anchovies. Many sightings of dolphins associated with seabird aggregations, and feeding or foraging in this area have been documented (Sahri et al. 2020c).
Criterion D: Special Attributes
Sub-criterion D2: Diversity
The waters of Wakatobi are an important habitat for cetaceans and one of the most productive areas in the Banda Sea region, attracting a diversity of cetaceans. At least eleven common and also other rare whale and dolphin species can be observed in the area (Sahri et al. 2014; 2020c), which account for a third of the total of 33 species of cetaceans found in Indonesia (Mustika et al. 2015). In addition to sperm whales, blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus) which are listed as Endangered on the Red List occur (Reilly et al. 2008). Short-finned pilot whale (Globicephala macrorhynchus), Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops aduncus), Cuvier’s beaked whale (Ziphius cavirostris), spinner dolphin (Stenella longirostris), melon-headed whale (Peponocephala electra), common bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus), Risso’s dolphin (Grampus griseus), pantropical spotted dolphin (Stenella attenuata), and Bryde’s whale (Balaenoptera edeni) are all recorded.
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