Stretched over 5000 kilometres from west to east, Indonesia is the largest archipelago in the universe. It consists more than 17,000 islands (some researchers says not more than 14,000 islands – whatever it is, it already outnumbers other countries) with 5.4 million km-square of marine waters. So, no wonder that Indonesia becomes a marine country with its fish catches 15 times bigger than Australia. Unfortunately, Indonesia is also the largest chondrichtian fishery in the world which catches 118,000 tonnes of sharks and rays in 2003.
Indonesia is considered as largest pool of the chondrichtian faunas in world with very limited academic research on these kinds of fishes. Taxonomy knowledge as well as the behavioral observation of the chondrichtian are among the field needs to be improved. Pieter Bleeker (1819-1878) is considered as the father of ichthyology in Indonesia, who contributes more than 400 papers on Indonesian Fishes only, gave descriptions on more the 1,100 new fish species, and most importantly produces the Atlas Ichtyologique des Indies Orientales Neerlandaises. Since then many ichthyologist did many researches in Indonesia, including Fahmi, Dharmadi, Gerard R Allen, Mark Erdmann, R. Kuiter, etc. Recent works from CSIRO reveals 78 sharks’ species, 56 rays and 3 chimaeras completed with their biology, fishery, distribution, and conservation status. Other sources from P4KSI, as said by Dr. Dharmadi, cited that 116 sharks species has currently already been identified in Indonesia. In 2013, there was one additional shark been identified – Hemiscyllium halmahera, which also can be found in Morotai. In September 22nd, 2014 we successfully spotted and photographed this famous epaulette / walking shark species – current progress is to research their habitat, abundance and behavior.
Morotai Island is situated in East Indonesia, from 2 degrees 38′ 38.43″ N to 1 degree 57′ 45.05″ N and from 128 degrees 41′ 55.20″ E to 128 degrees 41′ 55.20″ E. Morotai Island Regency is split from Halmahera Utara in Maluku Utara (North Mollucas) province and has been established since 2008 and consists of 1,800 square-kilometres. Morotai Islands gained world’s attention during WWII due to very famous “Battle of Morotai” when General Mac Arthur established Morotai as the base for recapturing Phillipinnes. There was 61,000 US troops landed and lived in Morotai, in which 67% of them are engineers. The legacy of WWII is remaining today, from the wrecked military equipment and vehicles underwater to the armored vessels, arms and munitions buried in the jungle.