March 15th, 2013

Stop The Bombings in The Mentawai Islands

Since 1980’s, the remote Mentawai Islands have been attacked by fishermen using dynamite to explode the reef in order to kill fish. With increasing tourism and local populations, the bombers can no longer operate in secrecy. This practice must stop! We are petitioning the Indonesian government to help Mentawai patrol her western border in order to stop bomb fishing and other illegal activities.

“Because what they are doing is wrong” – Rob Machado

“Shocking video from Indonesia of fisherman using gunpowder to kill schools of fish” – Richard Branson

“HELP! The beautiful Mentawais Reefs of Indonesia are being DESTROYED in a brutal practice. Please sign to help stop it!” – Paul Walker

By Christie Carter | March 2013

For over month early in 2013, the playgrounds area in the Menatwai Islands off Sumatra Indonesia had at least three boats bombing reefs every day. When the weather was good, they would do over five cycles of bombing and collecting the dead fish in a day. Each cycle between five to eight bombs. Just doing a low average we calculate over 2250 bombs have been exploded in our 15 mile radius area. You can see what this looks like from the footage below.

We couldn’t go swimming in the ocean because there were bombs going off 200 meters from our resort. I’m not exaggerating.

Since that time phone calls were made to police, navy and coast guard stations, as well
as our local tourism and government representative offices. Our video showing explosion of reefs was posted, and our petition to the Indonesia government was started. The petition calls for the fisheries, resources, tourism and police authorities to start coordinated efforts
to stop the blast fishing techniques of fishermen.

The video and petition was picked up by surf-based media and shared amongst friends reaching and being shared by the likes of Kelly Slater and Richard Branson. Within five days of the petition starting, the Ministry of Fishing and Marine Resources in Jakarta requested to meet the petitioners. Within seven days of the video uploaded, the meeting was convened in Jakarta with the Director Generals of Fisheries, Fisheries Security and Marine Resources in attendance. In a country infamous for endless bureaucracy, this was an impossible feat made possible!

During the meeting, the 76 page petition containing almost 4,000 signatures was presented to Mr. Syahril Abdurrahman, head of Security for Marine Fisheries. The meeting was convened with the purpose of convincing the petitioners that the Indonesian government was serious about immediately combating the bomb boats, and distributing resources. They are afraid of an international fish embargo being called for, which would mean the loss of much income for Indonesia. The meeting also highlighted Indonesia’s lack of resources going forward including a lack of fuel and operational budgets from the Central Budget Authority and a lack of boats designed to make patrols and raids of this kind.

All members of the meeting admitted that the eastern 1/2 of Indonesia has been much better patrolled than the western half. The likes of Wakatobi and Raja Ampat have received the lion’s share of resources to defend their national borders and fishing rights. West Sumatra has been left out in the old, including the re-assignment of a Navy Frigate from West Sumatra back to Jakarta about 6 years ago. The head of the meeting also bemoaned the reduction in overall national fisheries security resources from 150 operational days budgeted 4 years ago, down to 115 days for 2013. This means that Indonesian resources for protection of fisheries can only operate once every 3 days on average!

The head of Fisheries Mentawai admitted failure and embarrassment to his team, but also talked about his local Navy not having weapons, his local police not having boats, and the complete lack of fuel even if there were enough guns and boats.

The short term actions from the meeting include an emergency fuel budget given to the provincial government of west Sumatra so that their better equipped boats can enact patrols as necessary while the crimes are being committed, rather than chasing evidence later. There will also be increased coordination between the west and north Sumatra provincial governments to crack down on the import and sale of ammonium nitrate used in the making the bombs. Also the police will conduct random patrols and prosecution of the fish markets in north and west sumatra, where it is obvious which fish have been caught using explosives. The West Sumatra government has officially requested the return of the frigate ship that was taken so that they may have a better chance to protect their waters.

Most importantly of all, the Director General of Security for Marine Fisheries has made it a priority for his ministry by year’s end to approve the creation of a marine sanctuary in South Western Siberut, the site of the original bombing. This decision has been sought already by the Mentawai tourism and mayor’s office for other reasons unrelated to crime, so the request involves multiple ministries, and is already well underway. The support of the fisheries department can only benefit the cause. The approval would mean the automatic national funding of patrols within the sanctuary. This would remove the internal wrangling of the various provinces at the national level, seeking to get their share of the limited fuel and operational budgets from the fisheries ministry each year.

Information from the meeting and from subsequent private meetings has highlighted also the strength of local associations of fisherpeople that are formed throughout Indonesia. Although Mentawai has some version set up through their “community supervisory groups” supported by the government, it is very poorly administered. What does exist lacks teeth with local authorities and not to mention criminal foreign elements who are stealing food from the mouths of the locals.

We are very grateful for the support so far of the Fisheries Department at all government levels, for the seriousness of Mr. Agus Budhiman in calling together the ministries for this important meeting. We are also encouraged by the amount of interest and support this story has generated internationally. However, what we’ve received so far is no guarantee of action. We need continued support from our friends and families to prepare for a longer term policing of Mentawai people’s fishing rights, a sustainable patrolling infrastructure and most importantly a permanent end to the destructive fishing methods that started this all in the first place.

Our job is not done until we reach 10,000 signatures, and so far we only have 4,500

Please please please help us to stop the bombing! Sign our petition and share with your friends, to do the same.

Please sign here:

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