REACTION: Keeping our feet in the water
Yes, I do have the best job in the world!
As I sort through the pictures of my most recent field trip to Sendang Biru in East Java, Indonesia, I can’t help feeling so lucky to be in the Asian heart of the issue that we will focus on in the Global Ocean Campaign.
I’ve been spending most of my working hours lately either stuck on the fourth floor of our office, or in traffic jams, but every once in a while, I get to go out to see the work of my colleagues and energize my motivation to do what I do.
This trip, we agreed to introduce the importance of marine protected areas to fishers who have not been exposed much to spatial management measures. Tuna and shark fisheries are nowadays well aware of the importance of selective gears, the need to record their catches, and the value of investing in proper handling and processing of catches. Unfortunately for them, no amount of training to reduce wasteful practices, or their individual adoption of good practices, will be sufficient to restore their targeted fish stocks to healthy levels.
There are simply too many people catching too many fish all the time, everywhere.
This fact is even made more apparent when you meet the very people whose lives directly depend on these dwindling resources. It puts a face to the very heart of the issue we’re trying to tackle.
During this trip, I got to interact with a local boat owner. After visiting the landing site, we were invited to his home for a meal and to watch the world cup (Mexico – Holland!). Seeing how little his family had and how they shared so warmly their simple meal on the first evening of the fasting month made it even more meaningful.
It made me nervous to initiate the talk about the need to protect a large part of the shark nursery grounds in Indonesia. Nevertheless, the discussions went very well as he has observed clearly how he is now only one of five large-scale shark fishers in East Java, and he knows very well that his catches barely meet his costs nowadays.
As he sends off one of his captains to go out for the next 10 days to find some sharks, he reflects that he would rather allow the man to stay with his family during Ramadhan, since the weather is also not cooperating, and the conditions at sea are dangerous.
However, he agrees wholeheartedly that the only way to secure a livelihood for a few shark fishers is by reducing the total fishing effort (especially the big vessels) and protecting the nursery grounds in the coastal areas. He does remind us that we’d better get the exact location of the nursery grounds right, because if we don’t, we will fail his community.
This trip brings home the point that fishers are indeed dependent on healthy marine habitats for their day-to-day sustenance, especially in the developing parts of the world, and that the Global Ocean Campaign should not lose sight of this, even as we work at the global level. It is through trips like these that you realize how important it is to keep your feet in the water, to know the real plight of people in coastal communities and what truly matters to them.
It’s all the more obvious that we must succeed in our campaign, please work with us!