Voyage of scientific and diplomatic discovery

In May this year two AIMS scientists, Daniel Alongi and Lindsay Trott, participated in an inaugural voyage aboard the Indonesian research vessel R.V. Baruna Jaya VIII as part of a two week expedition surveying the Arafura and Timor Seas with 18 Indonesian and four Timor Leste scientists.

The Arafura Sea lies between Indonesia and Northern Australia. It has approximately 1850 km of coastline with an average depth of 50 – 80 m. The Timor Sea covers an area of 615,000 km2located Southeast of Timor Island and North West of Australia. The Arafura and Timor Seas fit the definition of a semi-enclosed sea under Article 122 and 123 of the United Nation Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS 1982).

To manage its vast resources requires close cooperation between nations surrounding the ocean such as Australia, Indonesia,Timor Leste and Papua New Guinea. Realising the uniqueness of the area and its importance to local communities, the Arafura and Timor Seas Expert Forum (ATSEF) was established with the objective of assisting stakeholders achieve the goals of sustainable development.

The May 2009 expedition was designed to survey the physical and biological resources of the deep Timor Sea and the northern Arafura Sea with a view to understanding the physical forces and food chains supporting the abundant fisheries in the region. AIMS scientists sampled both deep-sea and shallow water habitats in close collaboration with both Timor Leste and Indonesian scientists to determine rates of carbon and nutrient cycling in these areas, and their links to coastal upwelling and the export of material from the immense rivers off the southwestern coast of West Papua.