Sunday, April 15, 2007

Foreword about fish bombing

Fish bombing, aka dynamite fishing or blast fishing, is an extremely destructive fishing method used by fishermen in Indonesia and the Philippines among others.

When a school of fish is found, a primitive home-made bomb is dropped into the water. The longer the fuse, the deeper the bomb sinks before exploding. The shock wave literally knocks out any fish in the vicinity, some of which may float up to the surface, but most just sink to the bottom, their swim-bladders ruptured, their spines broken, to be collected at leisure by diving fishermen.

Besides being totally indiscriminate, bombing over shallow reefs also completely destroys the fish's natural habitat.

October 1994: Somewhere north of Boano island in the Moluccas, Indonesia, I personally witnessed the devastation caused underwater by this illegal practice. An otherwise pristine reef suddenly turned into an utterly deserted waste of dead coral rubble, without a single living creature in sight. As if an atomic bomb had been dropped there. A death zone for many years to come.

March 2005: While diving around Sipadan, Sabah, Malaysia, we felt several shock waves of distant underwater detonations. As if a very heavy object had been dropped into the water just above us. According to our dive guide, the explosions occurred somewhere in the Philippines.

March 2007: A good friend of mine was diving around the Banggai islands, Sulawesi, Indonesia, when he stumbled upon a recently bombed reef, still littered with dead fish. Below are his well argumented letter of protest and some of his photos as sent to the department of fisheries in Manado, Sulawesi, Indonesia.

April 2007: As we reached a dive site near Pulau Dua, Raja Ampat, West-Papua, Indonesia, our dive guide asked us to quickly disembark on a nearby island so he could chase some fleeing fishermen. To check whether they were bomb fishing... According to him it's fairly easy to tell whether a fish was bombed or not. However there's no effective control of any kind either at sea or in the fish markets. Fishermen who somehow do get caught red-handed, at most spend a symbolic night in jail, after which they can go on with their fishy business as usual. It's just a matter of paying the right amount to who-ever happens to be in charge that day.

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