How do you end generations of shark fishing that makes just enough money to feed families? You don’t, you replace it. ‘Project Hiu’, Hiu being the Indonesian word for Shark, is an initiative to provide an alternative incomes to fishermen in one of the largest shark fisheries in Indonesia.
The aim of Project Hiu for now is not to convert or condemn, rather slowly introduce and inflict change on a community that has only ever known shark fishing. I am aiming to remove the boats from shark fishing practices for as many weeks as possible during the shark fishing concentrated months of the year. I do this by brining tourists to the fishermen and paying them double what they are fishing sharks for allowing us to use the boat for other things like surfing and snorkelling, meaning the boats cannot go offshore and fish. In addition to this, I aim to inflict change on the community where the fishermen are based. I want our presence to not just benefit a few fishermen, but also show the community the advantage of tourism over fishing. I want this area to become a selective tourist destination, not open to the public but open to people who want to join me for the right reasons and are passionate about changing the world without thriving on hatred for the people destroying it.
I first travelled to the island of Lombok when I was 22 years old, and this is when I first walked through the main fishing town’s market and was shocked with what I saw. While I only saw the recent weeks catch, I still saw sharks larger than most of the individuals I have dived with lying dead on the floor. It was a confronting symbol of the current state of the ocean. That same week I travelled other side of the island to visit a similar town. While it too was once a fishing village, it had been successful transformed into a tourism hub. A single surf wave nearby had caused the fisherman of this town to transform their fishing boats into vessels to accommodate travelling surfers.
Now, the entire town runs off this tourism, and they no long fish for their income. A wave cannot go extinct, nor can a wave hurt the health of the surrounding reef, and therefore a wave is the perfect form of income. To me it seemed simple, if this village could change, then surely we could begin this shift in its neighbouring fishing village. Which brings us to my project idea. By using a combination of skills from a range of expertise, we can create an alternative, sustainable source of income through tourism, potentially allowing the fisherman to earn a far higher amount then their current shark fishing methods.
Indonesia is the world’s largest exporter of shark fins; I’ve seen this first hand. I’ve seen populations decline, undersized sharks caught, and smelt the stench of deceased sharks resonate throughout an entire Indonesian fishing community. Harder times are making the fisherman from small towns venture further into Australian waters, ultimately threatening our fisheries. This small village and the fishermen I work with represent far more than a simple project, they represent the preservation of the places I grew up, and the connection of our oceans. Its an opportunity to drive a wedge between the hard working fishermen and the China based buyers who profit from them.
The project has many goals surrounding it other than saving the life’s of sharks and decreasing local fishing pressure. It also focuses a lot on trash management, human well being, food security and education. The initial goal was simple yet seemed almost impossible, it was my first hurdle. We had to befriend a shark fisherman. If you have watched the short film, Tourism VS shark fishery, you will see the process of this occur, fortunately it was far more successful that I imagined. I took my first trip to the area with this in mind with a small crew funded by Australian geographic and environmental brand, fourth element. It was only day one in the shark market where we watched two large boats unloading a huge catch. There was a man sitting on the bow, he watched as his crew unloaded the sharks, I approached him to chat, he asked why we were filming They know the world is trying to expose them, they aren’t fond of people documenting them and they know some of the species they bring back are protected, so at first he was hesitant. However it was Mark, a Chinese born conservationist who joined the project, who struck up a conversation with him about renting his boat. The man gave us a price and the very next day we were the first ever paying tourists to step foot on a boat used for shark fishing. This man was Odi, the shark fishermen who now leases me his boats for my tour groups.
Some of the goals for the future are as follows, we will not only document atrocious and devastating fishing practices including the finning of sharks and killing of manta rays, but also the approach of working with the fishermen, not against. We will document the relationship between the fisherman and their business, and the way we can potentially transform that. An important goal is also to accommodate the school with better learning conditions for the children. I plan on doing this by bringing them much needed learning materials and making their learning environment more comfortable with something as simple as ceiling fans so they can learn on the hot days. I also want to introducer teachers to visit who can teach the children English, which is an essential skill for their involvement in tourism when they are older.
Another goal of the project has already come into fruition with a partnership being made with local trash management businesses. I will continue to facilitate their presence on the island and hopefully introduce the first ever waste management system on this small coastal community which help with the amount of trash going into the ocean. The relationship we will facilitate between the waste recycling business and the locals will also involve training and profitable beach clean ups for them. Other so the community such as food security and health care will be a focus as well. Anyway that we can contribute to the overall care and rehabilitation of the community with our presence.
Funds are needed to upgrade and convert the shark fishing vessels to allow the safe transport of tourists on a regular basis. This includes, emergency beacons, provision of life vests, appropriate storage for recreational equipment, ladders, and first aid kits. This equipment is essential for me to be able to safely put people on the fishing boats and also requires a matched effort from the fisherman to maintain the boats and ensure they are safe and comfortable. The more boats I can equip and transform, the more we can take them away from shark fishing and into tourism.
The village that the shark fishermen call home is located on a small island off the coast of Lombok. They have never had tourism in their area and in order to ensure the shark fishing boats can be engaged in tourism activities, the whole community needs to benefit from our presence to understand the value of tourism VS fishing and to prevent jealous amongst those profiting from their presence. In order to make this possible my promise to all of the community is to help upgrade the learning conditions of the local school that houses the children of the entire community, most are destined to be fishermen. Money is required to supply the school with learning material and equipment to improve the learning conditions.
In addition to this I want to bring in English teachers when I visit who will ensure the children are taught English so they can profit from tourism when older. We have teamed up with a local recycling facility that employ locals to process and sell waste in Indonesia. I want to facilitate their travel to the fishing island to implement their first ever, waste management system on the island to stop the pollution of the surrounding waters where the trash currently goes. In addition to this they will run training courses on waste management on the island The locals will not only be able to profit from recycling but will in turn keep the beaches clean and help their local environment which in the past has never been a
• School supplies
- Fans for classrooms that overheat $500
- English training $2000
- Books, pens, whiteboards $1000
- Mural paint $600
- TOTAL: $4100
Boat equipment – refit of four fishing vessels
- Epirb – $300 x4
- Life jackets - $50 x4
- Materials to make ladders $50 x4
- Minor maintenance $50 x 4
- TOTAL COST $1800
Implementation of Waste Management System
- Transportation of Recycling Program employees to Merengke village to conduct meetings with village leadership
- Car and boat costs $150 per day – x7 visits
- Village recycling education workshops –facilitator fees $200 per day – X 5 workshops
- Materials for waste collection – waste bags/bins - $100
- Boat costs for removal of waste to mainland Lombok - $100 per day – X 10 trips
- TOTAL COSTS $3300
Project Hiu requires action in several areas, it’s a constantly moving idea that is slowly developing and changing a small town in Indonesia that will one day, due to the decline in shark populations, will have no choice but to cease fishing and find alternative incomes. It is an ongoing process that has involved the hard work and dedication of many amazing people and to this day grows. It could still end up being unsuccessful or fail to have the impact on sharks that I am hoping it will, but in the mean time we push forward and learn everyday. In no way do I claim to have ended shark fishing in this area, or even on the individual boats we use, Our presence is merely distracts them for a time that may save a number of sharks. The idea of using the actual fishing boats means we know they can’t fish sharks at that time, because we travel on the boats. We are at the same time introducing the mindset that tourism is not only possible for them, but far more profitable. These men deserve an income free from the threat of prosecution, and free from weeks away fro their families at sea in dangerous boats. They deserve a secure future that doesn’t rely on the fishing of these apex predators. They also deseve to make real money, and not a fraction of the shark fin trade that is currently profiting form third world struggles.