Blast fishing rampant in East Flores
The practice of fishing for tuna using explosives has become more rampant off the coast of East Flores in East Nusa Tenggara, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Indonesia revealed in its latest survey.
The survey team found that even in a small village in the East Flores regency, a fleet of 98 fishing boats measuring two to three gross tonnage was operated by local fishermen to catch tuna using explosives.
A similar situation was also found in several other locations across the regency’s waters, including in Pulau Tiga, Solor Strait, the southern part of Solor Island, Lamakera Strait and the southern part of Lembata.
The blast fishing has not only destroyed the ecosystem, but also severely depleted tuna resources. WWF says that at least 50 percent of tuna affected by the blast fishing is wasted. The fish die in the explosions but sink to the bottom before the fishermen can collect them.
“Blast fishing not only harms tuna, but also protected animals like dolphins — which are found in the same area as tuna,” said Wawan Ridwan, the director of maritime and fishery affairs of WWF Indonesia.
In some cases, the fishermen themselves fall victim to the practice, being killed and suffering permanent disabilities. In one of the villages where the survey was conducted, WWF obtained data that since 2004, blast fishing had claimed the lives of five fishermen and left two others permanently disabled.
“This destructive fishing should be stopped. Demand for and trade in fishery products from such damaging fishing practices should be gradually reduced and eliminated,” Wawan said.
He admitted that efforts to stop the practice were difficult because it was related to policies and the market. Therefore, law enforcement and supervision should be strictly implemented in the field, he said.
Indonesia is the fourth largest tuna fishing nation in the world after Japan, Taiwan and Spain, according to the WWF report.
As tuna was a major global fishing commodity, Wawan said, it was increasingly important for retailers to ensure that the products they received from fishermen were sourced from environmentally friendly practices, not from blast fishing.
One of the efforts by WWF Indonesia to tackle blast fishing is by conducting counseling and capacity-building programs among fishermen, as well as helping them to orient their products to the environmentally friendly market.
WWF has initiated an annual forum called “Seafood Savers Annual Meeting”, attended by businessmen in the fishery sector, in an effort to campaign for sustainable fishing.
Currently, there are 10 companies participating in the Seafood Savers initiative, including reef fish producers, shrimp producers and hotels and restaurants serving seafood.
The annual meeting is aimed at facilitating an information exchange on fishery issues and improvements made by each company in accordance with the Seafood Savers guidelines.
The forum also discusses traceability systems, which are important to ensure seafood is sourced only from responsible fishing practices.
The forum recently inaugurated two new members: UD Pulau Mas and PT Arta Mina Tama.
UD Pulau Mas is a Bali-based company exporting live grouper. It dominates the market for live grouper in Indonesia, with a 60 percent market share. PT Arta Mina Tama is a tuna producer based in Muara Baru, Jakarta.
Together with WWF, the forum members design a work plan that they agree to implement to improve their fishing practices and business based on the principles and standards of sustainable fishery set by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).
“Kubutambahan village is thought to be the most appropriate site for the new airport given its land structure and its strategic location.”