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Big business, big damage

Bioprospecting is threatening Bunaken National Park

Walter Balansa

   Bunaken coral reefs are home to great biodiversity
   Walter Balansa

Established in 1991 because of its magnificent biodiversity, Bunaken National Park is located in North Sulawesi province, only 35 minutes by boat from the provincial capital Manado. Covering an area of 890.65 square kilometres, it hosts many rare and endangered species, including the coelacanth (once believed to be extinct), dolphins and turtles. It is also a part of the migratory route for many economically important fish. Its natural beauty and rich marine resources mean that the park has a high economic value for both the local tourism and fisheries industries, with20,000 residents depending on the park for their livelihood.

Human activities such as illegal fishing and waste disposal problems have become an increasing threat over the last decade. Many international organisations have tried to find solutions to these problems and as a result, local governments and communities have become more aware of the value of natural resources and the importance of coastal resource management. However, one major threat remains unrecognised: the search for useful compounds from marine plants and animals for commercial purposes, or marine bioprospecting. In the last two decades, bioprospecting has led to the degradation of Bunaken, raising ethical, environmental and legal alarms.

In defiance of international law

The practice of bioprospecting emerged in response to the increasing resistance that many diseases have to drugs currently on

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