Excerpt from BBC
Estevao Marques was barefoot, kitted out in a salt-stained football shirt with a well-worn mask and snorkel pushed high on his forehead. A sharp-looking knife was in one hand and speargun in the other. Marques encouraged me to snap a photo before he dashed off to the beach while there was a break in the monsoon clouds above.
Marques’ local fishing ground has one of the highest concentrations of reef fish species ever recorded in a marine ecosystem, but this isn’t one of the world’s best-known diving destinations (although it should be). This is Atauro Island, a 25km stretch of volcanic rock located off the north coast of Timor-Leste, Southeast Asia’s youngest and least visited nation.
There’s no mass tourism on Atauro, but Marques, a local fisherman and homestay host, still faces the challenge of overexploited marine populations and dwindling island resources. Timor-Leste has a unique solution, though. In Atauro, communities are resurrecting traditional Timorese land management laws known as Tara Bandu while developing community-based tourism initiatives to preserve the most biodiverse coral reef in the world.
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