Lembata – In line with the government target to welcome 20 million tourist also in line with the local government expectation in developing East Nusa Tenggara as global tourism destinations in 2018, Coordinating Ministry of Maritime Affairs hand in hand with the Ministry of Tourism, the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, The Government of East Nusa Tenggara and Lembata Regency hosting an International Seminar of Whale [Strengthening Maritime Culture: Lefa traditions and Lefa communities towards the development of Maritime tourism for the welfare of the society and sustainable resources in Lembata (October 31st – November 1st 2016).
East Nusa Tenggara waters provide 65% sustainable fisheries potential to its own regkion. East Nusa Tenggara waters (Savvu sea) is a foundation of world coral triangle, because of its vast coral reef spreads combined with diverse species so rich, it considered to be one of the richest in the world. Savvu sea also become a critical habitat of sea mammals since it also become a transit for 22 species of sea mammals such as 14 whale species, 7 dolphin species and 1 manatee. Two rare species of whale: blue whale / Balaenoptera musculus / koteklema) and sperm whale / physeter microcephalus / lelanggaji) also find Savvu sea as home. Manta ray, sea turtles and manatees also enjoys blue waters of Savvu sea as their important habitat. Those situations encourage the government to declare Savvu sea as waters conservation area and was named as Savvu sea National park (Taman Nasional Perairan (TNP) Laut Sawu).
Even though the waters has been declared as conservation area, the community still continuing their old traditions and customs. One of them that still lives until now is traditional whale hunting. The people of the Lamalera island hunts whales by following their ancestors footsteps. The hunt was on since the ancestors of Lamalera people occupied the land approximately since the 16th century. The unique tradition and its beautiful natural landscape of the island in a way has given the conservation area an eco-cultural tourism ready to go global.
The purpose of the seminar is to get broader view of the potential of the region to be developed as an eco-cultural tourism destination. More than the seminar also designed to bridge mutual understanding among many stakeholders such as the central and local government, academician, local communities, environmentalist in the development of maritime tourism and sustainable resources of East Nusa Tenggara region. Strengthening maritime culture also gives attention in local wisdom in preserving local culture and local’s tradition on environmental protection.
Deputy of Human Resource, Technology and Maritime Culture Safri Burhanuddin strongly states that in the development of tourism destination an engagement with the society needs to be done first. Eco-cultural tourism of Savvu sea lies on its vast coral reef and its biodiversity, cultural and unique traditions (Lefa culture), whale watching attraction and many more. Everything that the land has to offer supposed to welfare its community first before anything else. *