Article

Bombing in the Mentawais

Fishermen in Indonesia are killing more than just fish

| posted on January 29, 2013

Fishermen using bombs to kill hundreds of fish—along with the reef and other sea animals—in one destructive blast. Photo: Carter

Like shooting fish in a barrel. If that barrel was made of one of the world’s most precious reefs. And if by shooting you mean throwing homemade bombs that leave craters 3 yards in diameter and kill all living things near it. So yes, what’s going on in the Mentawais right now is just like shooting fish in a barrel. As idiotic as that is.

“For over a month now, the Playgrounds area has had at least three boats bombing our reefs every day,” says the owner of one of the surf resorts in the area. “When the weather is good, they can do more than five cycles of bombing and collecting the dead fish in a day. Each cycle is between five to eight bombs. Calculating a low average, we estimate more than 2,250 bombs have been exploded in our 15-mile radius area.”

The owner of another nearby resort is equally disturbed: “Countless animals and acres of coral have been killed. It was a sad day for me personally when the dugong that has been living around the resort for years washed up on the beach dead after a boat’s bomb attack.”

“Every time the surf season ends these guys descend,” says Jess Ponting, Director of the Center for Surf Research at SDSU. “It seems more concentrated this year, but perhaps they are just working closer to the surf resorts, or perhaps there are now more surf resorts, where people see it and are horrified by it. These are very remote islands and normally they just get away with it. This is being done on a commercial scale by people from the Sumatran mainland (most likely Sibolga) over a hundred miles away. This is not poor local fishermen feeding their families on a subsistence level.”

Unfortunately, these methods aren’t anything new. Back in 2005, an article in SURFER recounted a police crackdown on these “fishermen” that involved a high-speed chase, guns, and violence. But the problem was far from solved, and has remained a practice in the region since. Ill-equipped with resources and equipment, local law enforcement face an uphill battle against the growing number of boats engaged in these practices in this very remote area.

“Once all the reef is dead—and 86 percent of Indonesia’s reefs are threatened, most will be dead by 2020 at the current rate of destruction—there is nowhere for the fish stocks to replenish,” says Ponting. “It is essentially pulling the rug out from under the local marine ecosystem. This compromises the ability of local fishermen to make a living and the ability of a coastal/marine tourism industry to grow.”

Those living in the Mentawais are now desperate for change. “Although we have called every agency possible, nothing has been done and the boats are still operating as we speak. The goal is to help Indonesians feel strongly about protecting their waters from bomb boats, and nudge them into action,” says one of the local surf camp owners. “Time is against us. Please spread the word.”

To sign the petition, click here.

  • a.k.

    and yet you think as we as surfers as whole care ? no because this has been goin on for a long time and yet we go down there looking for our own selfish good times and when we score those waves thats all that matters even though we know this is going on you think we come back from these trips and go oh my god there blowing up the reef lets help them ? nope we just let it be and hope those reefs are there for next year and as long as we score we don’t care so we as surfers are just as guilty for not trying to stop this or help out and just worrying about our own selves thats the way of the world .just some food for thought

  • joe baloney

    Is there anything we can do about it, like not buy certain types of fish while there? Where does this “bombed” fish end up?

  • Karen

    I like Joe’s comment.. honestly, is there anything more we can do besides just sharing this article??

  • Mark

    Thats F’d up. Sounds like we need a sniper out there. A bullet in the head will slow them down.

  • Mark

    Well, Im unemployed and completely broke. Someone pay for the trip, and I’ll do what I can to stop it. Holes in their boat ( whatever it takes.;-) )

  • Myra Payne

    Can’t somebody stop this madness? Why are thy allowed to do this? Where is
    law. Surely there are laws to keep people from doing this. It’s inhumane to
    destroy the coral reefs in this way. Shame on these people. Protest and boycott,
    Don’t buy their fish! Put them out business! Something needs to happen!

  • R. Smith

    I’ve stayed at wavepark several times, super sick!! What needs to happen is visualante justice. Wavepark,kadui,kanduivilla,pitstop, and any of the other resort/camps need to possi up with there large dug out speed boats and ram these assholes! Then lock them up themselves, the indo gov. doesn’t give a rats ass. These bombings look like they are taking place off season for surfing, which means they could very easily start bombing the reefs at hideaways, riffles,kanduis,ebay,and all the other world class reefs on flat days. Waterballon launchers with large rocks from the beach or a boat would work too!!

  • Kenny Badler

    This is total insanity, and complete disrespect for natural resources.

    Here on Oahu, many of the local Shoreline fisherman show no respect for their own beaches and fishing resources. I see spearfisherman taking fish by the dozens. The shoreline fisherman seem to fish as something to do while they drink/smoke and party, leaving all their butts and trash behind. AUWE!

    I have spent time in Idaho, Montana, colorado, and the fisherman and hunters are typically the most protective of their environment.

    I would say that these perpetrators need to be educated of the damage that they are doing, but it just should be COMMON SENSE! They are just LOLO !

  • Chris

    It’s pretty sad as it’s likely fishermen not from the local area that are doing it. I have contacted a friend, a marine biologist who was in the Ments for a while working on reef preservation to see if she has any idea who to contact. Other wise it will take the mobilizing of the local community to get them to stop and likely some sort of conflict.

  • http://captainsmileyfishingcharters.com patrick kelly

    As a surfer, fisherman/ waterman this make me very sad. I don’t know what a solution is. If that was happening around my neighborhood I would take matters in my own hands. Those rednecks wouldn’t be fishing much longer.

  • Pavlo

    I’d support the petition as I think blowing up fish and reefs is an absolutely abhorrent practice. But I do not support the violent methods the makers of this video imply by saying, “I don’t have guns. I don’t have cannons… Eventually somebody’s friend does have a gun and a cannon.” You completely lost me at that point.

    In other words they’re suggesting killing the people who are doing this method of fishing.

    Not very smart. Or ethical (I’d argue that killing humans is a much bigger crime than blowing up fish). Neither will it produce the desired outcome. Try that heavy-handed approach in Indonesia and see how you go with it. Indonesian tropical jail cell sound appealing?

  • william

    i agree with mark wait till they go to throw the bomb n shoot him let it blow them up

  • Lawrence

    These mother fucking idiots from Indonesia, Malaysia & Philippines had been doing this for decades. Its not difficult to fish in these ocean, there are plenty to go. All these idiots are simply lazy, that’s all, nothing in common. You don’t have to explain coral reefs & biodiversity to these idiots. Beside bomb fishing, these idiots are active pirates, illegal smuggling, you name it, you got it. I know, because i live here.
    They are not interested in fixed income jobs or employment. They just wanna hang around & funds runs dry. They will do what ever it takes. The worst you will witness is from Southern Philippines, the Sulok. Practically pirates good for nothing calling themselves Abu Sayaf fighting for Islam. So far, they have been fighting for ransom money & extortion ONLY. Fighting for religious rights ? My ASS !

  • Don Ronaldo

    Send me there with some RPGs. I’ll defuse the situation quickly.

  • http://www.amazon.com/Tides-Ebb-as-Islands-Dream/dp/1477631682/ Brian English

    The issues of blast fishing and coastal resource management are a central theme in my novel, Tides Ebb as Islands Dream. The novel explores the intricacies of eradicating destructive fishing practices in over-populated small island communities. Tides Ebb as Islands Dream is an emotional journey that details the experiences of a Peace Corp volunteer and the people he meets in the Philippines. The novel weaves a tapestry of tales that includes a snakeboy, a teenage girl with synesthesia, a masseuse with haphephobia, a reformed poacher, fishermen that use dynamite to catch fish, exotic tropical islands, scuba diving adventures, hidden Japanese gold from WWII, the not-so-clandestine flesh trade, several diseases, drugs and even murder.
    http://www.amazon.com/Tides-Ebb-as-Islands-Dream/dp/1477631682/

  • http://www.amazon.com/Tides-Ebb-as-Islands-Dream/dp/1477631682/ Brian English

    The issues of blast fishing and coastal resource management are a central theme in my novel, Tides Ebb as Islands Dream. The novel explores the intricacies of eradicating destructive fishing practices in over-populated small island communities. Tides Ebb as Islands Dream is an emotional journey that details the experiences of a Peace Corp volunteer and the people he meets in the Philippines. The novel weaves a tapestry of tales that includes a snakeboy, a teenage girl with synesthesia, a masseuse with haphephobia, a reformed poacher, fishermen that use dynamite to catch fish, exotic tropical islands, scuba diving adventures, hidden Japanese gold from WWII, the not-so-clandestine flesh trade, several diseases, drugs and even murder.

  • Henrik Alexander

    Can’t somebody stop this madness? Why are thy allowed to do this? Where is
    law. Surely there are laws to keep people from doing this. It’s inhumane to
    destroy the coral reefs in this way. Shame on these people. Protest and boycott,
    Don’t buy their fish! Put them out business! Something needs to happen!

  • DP

    @ Lawrence, that was the best paragraph I’ve read on the net you couldn’t have said it any better. I’ve spent years in the ments. You’re right you go into those Indo towns and all the men do is sit around the coffe shops and smoke grits all day everyday. Then go do shady shit for quick dough.

  • saman

    cant we just snipe those idiots and net them up, make it look ike they blew them selves up on accident

  • IndoSucks

    If you’ve ever been to Bali you would know the locals are all dumb as fuck. They throw their trash in the water, and do lots of stupid shit. They are the most lazy dumb fucks I have ever seen. This is not suprising at all, it’s expected. They are monkies.

  • Scotty B

    These guys are too lazy to fish like real men so the blow up the entire marine ecosystem? This is beyond idiotic.

  • Ricky

    Jo baloney what a silly comment yeah right next time you fly into Padang West Sumatra do you think we can see frozen fish in a supermarket labeled blown up off hideaways surf resort near to playgrounds for sale what a goon this petition is a waste of time and is just Christy at wave park going on the band wagon he likes the sound of his own voice if its so important why are the local people of those islands not stopping it ,if it was a morning for a surf charter boat and they could make some money out of it they,d be out there like a rocket !

  • Cheeze

    This might be a possibility — AMERICA or the UNITED NATIONS seems to give financial & relief aid to just about every country on the planet — maybe we or they could put sanctions and/or an embargo on places such as these…? Also, bringing this to the attention of CNN, Associated Press, and other news agencies could be helpful … Here is another possibility: Since President Obama was born in Hawaii — it’s quite possible that he might like to get involved if he knew how fishermen were treating the oceans of the world!

  • Jason

    Why don’t you send the story to one or all of the Australian news channels?

  • Jimmy the Saint

    Well is this just sickening! I have signed the petition, and facebooked all my friends that might too, might be a waste of time, but who knows, it might not…

  • http://surfermag nik

    Education is the answer but unfortunately money talks,and these people don’t look ahead at what sort of future they are leaving for their own,it’s about making a living now!

    Very sad-even sadder due to the fact the Indonesian authorities wouldn’t give a toss because they could be bought off without any concerns whatsoever. Same sort of bullshit happening in Fiji with Chinese long liners going through the islands raping the seas of marine life because the “Authorities” can be bought!

    It’s the “real” world we live in at the moment and it’s hard to see it changing for the good anytime soon. I guess we will have to wait for all fish stocks to be gone for us to wake up to it any many other situations like this.

  • Peter

    I was in hainan for the ASP event last week and local fishermen were bombing the place just 200 mts away from the pointbreak.

    same thing, almost impossible to educate those people. same thing with their trash

    there´s a video of the same subject in the coral triangle;
    http://vimeo.com/17419531

  • Jaycen

    someone get me a ticket over there and I’ll take care of the rest.

  • Travis

    Mortified.

    Education is definitely the key in the long team, no reef = no fish. In the short term, Destroy their boats and engines by cover of night, I promise you I would do this day one. I would not live there and watch this happen more than once. no boat = no bombing the reefs. If that does not work and the authorities turn a blind eye, then a good ole daily ass woopin’ until it stops.

  • zeno malan

    What kind of fish do they make $ from?

    The Mentawaii’s are not known for their abundance of game fish.

    Exactly what is it they’re after?

    Thanks in advance to anyone that answers my query.

  • Indo dreaming

    They would not be to fussy about what kind of fish they get all could be sold at market in Padang or somewhere else, if you go to any fish market you will see all types of fish of all sizes, but off course some fetch better $ than others.

    Im sure there dream would too luck into a school of pelagics like mac tuna, spanish mackerel etc but most likely what they get is just a mix of reef fish of various varieties, I’ve seen plenty of schools of smaller GT,s also while snorkling Mentawai reefs.

    BTW. the comments below about education i don’t think are really relevant, as it is not the local Mentawai people who do this it is people from mainland Sumatra, they don’t care if there is ever fish in this area again because there is no living reef anymore, because they will just go to a different area, there not stupid they know the effects, the method is just easier and fast money.