Old man and the sea: An old man from the Ohoi Tetoat fishermen’s village in Kei Kecil district in Southeast Maluku Regency takes his grandson out on his wooden boat in the morning.
As the daylight is fading, fishermen in the Kei Kecil district in Southeast Maluku regency start to come to the fish cage to sell the fish they have caught.
Arsa Jarot, a fisherman from Ohoi Tetoat fishermen’s village in Kei Kecil, said after being out on the sea for almost 12 hours, he had managed to catch two red coral trout fish.
“I caught two tongsing [local name for coral trout] today; each weighing almost 1 kilogram,” he said after handing over the fish to the cage’s head to be measured.
Jarot sells the fish to the Pulau Mas fish cage for Rp 230,000 (US$23.63) per kilogram.
Every fish sold to the cage must have a minimum weight of 600 grams. If any fisherman sells a fish below that size, the cage’s head will return it to the sea.
The minimum size regulation allows the fish to mature and reproduce, keeping the stock of the fish in the sea intact.
Smiling man: A fish cage worker shows off the catch.
Most fishermen of Kei Kecil have long conducted sustainable fishing practices. At first, they used basket fish traps, then, slowly they changed their fishing method by using fishing nets. Today, most fishermen use fishing rods; some use real bait, while many others use artificial bait, locally known as kedo-kedo style.
In kedo-kedo, fishermen use artificial bait that looks like real fish on their fishing rod. Usually, the fishermen catch the fish using a rod on a still boat, whereas those that use kedo-kedo catch the fish from a moving boat to better attract the fish.
Despite the sustainable fishing practice, Jan Manuputty, project leader of Kei Islands WWF-Indonesia, said there were fishermen from two villages in Kei Kecil that still used explosives.
The 3,180-square-kilometer waters of Southeast Maluku is healthy thanks to its geographical condition. In the south, it is bordered by the Arafura Sea and in its western part is the Banda Sea.
Jan said it used to be very easy to find Napoleon Wrasse in Southeast Maluku, but since the 1990s, the stock of the fish there had decreased significantly due to the massive use of cyanide that also damaged the coral.
That condition got worse when fishermen also caught juvenile fish.
In an attempt to protect their marine resources, the fishermen observed sasi — the traditional law that has been passed down for generations.
They will close the area that is considered damaged and no one can enter or do activities there until the condition has improved.
Overfishing and destructive fishing practices are driven by the increasing demand for seafood across the Asia Pacific.
Up to 70 percent of reef fish in some places in the region are being taken from the ocean before they even have the opportunity to mature and reproduce — a condition that will have a devastating impact on the ocean food chain.
How much?: Two young boys sell the fish their father has caught at the fish cage in Ohoi Tetoat.
Domestic role: The wives of fishermen in Toyando village hang out during the day, cooking and gossiping, while waiting for their husbands to return from the sea.
Fresh from the sea: A fish cage worker takes a red coral trout freshly caught by fishermen.
Life boat: Two fishermen in Toyando village work together to finish the wooden fishing boat.
Fish house: A worker at a fish cage that belongs to a Bali-based fish exporter Pulau Mas fixes the net in the cage. The fish cage is located near the Toyando fishermen’s village.
Photos by Novia D. Rulistia