It’s nothing new really. And some fishermen argue that it is an effective method of catching the maximum number of fish, with the minimal amount of effort. It’s DIY bomb building that usually involves improvised underwater explosive devices made at home.
If commercial dynamite is unavailable, or doesn’t fit the budget, a glass bottle packed with potassium or ammonium nitrate, pebbles, and a splash of kerosene, will do the trick.
Sometimes cyanide is added to the recipe. Apparently, the fish that are caught with cyanide are not intended for the fisherman’s own dinner plate. Obviously, cyanide that enter the fish, could easily be transferred to the humans sitting down to a seafood supper. Or maybe the local fishing families don’t understand the dangers of cyanide. Or the dangers associated with dynamite fishing.
Perhaps the families that fish this way don’t care. Perhaps they cannot afford to. It is unlikely that any parent would deliberately compromise their families health, and the future of their children. Nevertheless, dynamite fishing endangers not only the coral reefs and the myriad of magnificent creatures that they support, but also the fishing communities ability to provide for themselves.
The beginning is always a good place to start. We’ll assume that the local engaged in dynamite fishing doesn’t blow himself up in the process of building the underwater bomb. Which does happen. Low income fishermen with limited education don’t make the best bomb builders. So they may lose a hand, arm or child while attempting to put together an underwater explosive.
Most of the time, the bomb building is relatively uneventful, and the bomb goes out on the boat. Tragically, dynamite fishing has been practised in Indonesia, and throughout Southeast Asia for over 50 years.
So let’s imagine an Indonesian fisherman heading out to the reef, looking for a good spot to drop his bomb and scoop up the stunned and injured fish that will float to the surface. Once an appropriate location has been decided upon, the fisherman lobs the bomb overboard, and waits for the shock blast. This stuns the fish, and ruptures their swim bladders and other internal organs.
Many float to the surface. Voila! Could catching fish get any easier?
Another question. Could it get any more destructive?
Some fish float to the surface, and are an effortless catch. Many, many more sink to the bottom to rot. And it’s not just the fish that are stricken down. Virtually every marine organism in the vicinity will be seriously harmed or killed. Equally tragic is the damage that is done to the coral reefs.
What the fishing families do not see, and may not understand, is that while in the short term dynamite fishing seems to work well, it is actually undermining their traditional way of life. It is also seriously compromising the ability of the coral reefs and the ocean to provide any source of food or income for them in the future.
Perhaps today the fish float to the surface. Underwater the environment that enables the fish to live and breed is being destroyed. The reefs are crushed and turned to rubble. Without the reefs there are no fish. No fish means no food. Divers and sun seekers do not travel thousands of miles to see rubble. No tourists means less or no income, and ultimately, no future.
In the short term, fish populations are reduced, driving the boats to bomb other areas. In the long term, hundreds of miles of coral reefs become skeletons. Where once a diverse and productive marine ecosystem thrived, now a grey and barren graveyard lies. The coral’s calcium carbonate structures are dead, an incapable of regeneration. Thousands of years of mother nature’s underwater work, the building blocks of an ecosystem, destroyed.
Komodo National Park is a protected marine reserve, and recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Nevertheless there is fresh and indisputable evidence that dynamite fishing practices continue here. Some of Asia’s most spectacular dive sites have been irreparably damaged. If they can recover, it will not be during our life time, nor that of our children.
The Indonesian government has assumed complete responsibility for the protection of the Komodo National Marine Park. In the past, they had a co-operative agreement with the Conservation International group to monitor and implement measures critical to conserving the coral reefs in the area.
There is clearly a need to look into a better coordinated response to the dangers of dynamite fishing. Local communities should be protecting their reefs, not destroying them. The situation sadly seems to be getting worse in many areas, not better.