Monday, July 2, 2007

When Fishing Turns Deadly

from: Enviromental Justice Foundation

EJF has just returned from North Sumatra in Indonesia, where we have been training the Indonesian NGO JALA. This group is working and campaigning with traditional fisherfolk to end the impacts on fishing communities and marine biodiversity from illegal trawlers. Supposedly banned in Indonesia since 1980, trawling is wiping out local fish stocks and with them the livelihoods of traditional fishermen. Unfortunately, the Indonesian Government has consistently failed to enforce its own laws, and anger and frustration on the part of local fishing communities over their decrease in income and this lack of government action has resulted in an ongoing and tragic conflict.

Clashes between traditional fishermen and trawlers have led to injury and loss of life on both sides; many fishermen have been injured, disappeared or died. In fact, JALA estimates that this terrible conflict has resulted in over 200 casualties in North Sumatra over the last 15 years. The most recent deadly episode occurred in February and tragically led to both kidnapping and loss of life.

“They brought my husband home in a coffin, and told me he had been killed by trawlers. I only saw photos of his body, he’d been stabbed all over…” - Local fisherman’s widow

“The harsh reality of what we were seeing in Sumatra was beyond belief. Literally thousands of fisherfolk and their families are being driven further and further into poverty, while the trawlers simply carry on their illegal fishing with impunity. At one point during a field investigation we could see 68 trawlers around the traditional fishing craft we were in, all of which dwarfed our vessel, and all of which were inside the demarked fishing zone upon which the local fishermen rely. Perhaps most tragic of all is that every single one of the traditional fishermen I spoke to knows someone who has been injured or killed in the conflict.” - Duncan Copeland, EJF Campaigner

With support from EJF, JALA is promoting peaceful solutions to the conflict, and is working to expose the awful consequences of the illegal trawling activities. Further film and editing training from the EJF team has contributed to the production of JALA’s first documentary "Stop Trawling", highlighting both the environmental and social impacts of trawlers. This trip we also worked with JALA to further develop the NGO’s research and campaign expertise, and the production of a report on illegal trawling in Sumatra.

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