1.1. Assessing the Impacts of Marine Protected Areas on the Livelihoods and Food Security of the Bajau as an Indigenous Migratory People in Indonesia and Malaysia

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Greg Acciaioli (The University of Western Australia)
Natasha Stacey (Charles Darwin University)
Dirk J. Steenbergen (Charles Darwin University)
Julian Clifton (The University of Western Australia)


The rights and ability of Indigenous peoples to maintain their cultural identity through following traditional means of resource usage have been subject to conflicting conventions, treaties, and initiatives at the international and regional levels that seek to support Indigenous identity and access to resources while simultaneously placing greater impositions on food access and availability. The latter are manifest clearly in Southeast Asia, where marine conservation has taken centre stage to the detriment of indigenous semi-migratory and nomadic peoples’ ability to sustain their traditional means of collecting and utilising marine resources. However, the links between marine conservation and food security are only beginning to be evaluated in the literature. This paper investigates the experiences of Bajau/Bajo (alternatively known as Sama Dilaut) in Tun Sakaran Marine Park in eastern Sabah, Malaysia, and Wakatobi National Park in Southeast Sulawesi, Indonesia, to assess the impact of these marine parks upon their livelihoods and levels of food security. It argues that such vulnerable or marginalised populations that are wholly dependent on marine resources for food and purchasing power for other foods and staples are adversely impacted both with regard to food accessibility and food availability by the restrictions imposed by no take or core zones and other aspects of these parks’ strategies of marine conservation, highlighting especially the increasing pressures upon women’s livelihoods in these contexts. It exposes the urgent need to refine marine policy-making so that food security and poverty alleviation are seen as integral and complementary to conservation objectives, highlighting the need to include maritime semi-migratory and nomadic communities, and women from these communities in particular, as crucial partners in future marine conservation in order to ensure the long-term sustainable use of marine resources, especially given the impacts of climate change on marine food security.

Keywords: Bajau, Livelihood, Conservation, Marine Parks, Marine Resource Policy