Residents lack tools to
monitor destructive fishing

Local fishermen and activists on Nusa Lembongan stated Saturday they do not have the necessary equipment to monitor destructive fishing practices carried out by fishermen from outside the area, placing the tiny island's underwater treasures in constant danger.

Suarbawa, a local resident, said many fishermen from outside the island were regularly seen anchoring their boats some 500 meters off the beach.

He said the residents could not check whether they were using hazardous chemicals or explosive material to fish in the protected reef area because they did not have sufficient boats.

"We have to borrow local fisherman's boats to give chase, but we often lose them as they usually have more powerful boats," said the member of Satya Posana Nusa, a local NGO focusing on environmental conservation.

Lembongan village chief I Nyoman Murta echoed similar sentiments, saying that residents intent on checking the suspicious boats would have to help pay for the fuel of the borrowed boats.

Suarbawa said the lack of necessary equipment had forced them to check suspicious boats when it was already too late, only after local fishermen had reported damage to the coral or a sudden fish scarcity following the presence of the suspect boats.

"It seems there is causality between the two things. When the boats anchor frequently and for a long time, the local fishermen, who use traditional fishing techniques, notice that their catch decreases significantly," he said.

He said the residents had managed to chase the boats, but it was difficult to get hard evidence because the perpetrators simply threw dangerous substances like potassium into the sea.

"Moreover, the explosives they use are getting more sophisticated today; they now make quiet explosions under the sea using a certain tool that can be left underwater," Suarbawa said.

He hoped there would be more serious mechanisms to handle these destructive fishing practices in the future.

Abdul Halim, a program manager for the Nature Conservancy - Coral Triangle Center (TNC-CTC), a global conservation organization working on Nusa Penida, said stricter law enforcement measures were needed to stop these dangerous practices.

"Such fishing methods can inflict severe damage on the protected coral reef and fish and cause negative economic impacts on the locals," he said on the sidelines of the launch of the Community Center in Nusa Lembongan.

The center aims to accomodate various activities related to Nusa Penida marine conservation.

Nusa Penida islets comprise Nusa Penida, Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan. Located some 11 kilometers southeast of Bali, the islands are home to some 1,800 hectares of 247 protected species of coral reef and 562 species of reef fish.

The area is included in the Coral Triangle Initiative (CTI) program that is aimed at halting the degradation of coral colonies and conserving vulnerable marine species from the impacts of global warming.

Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Timor Leste, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands will sign the initiative at the first ever World Ocean Conference (WOC) in Manado, North Sulawesi, in May this year.

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