When I was eight years old, I begged my parents for a giant fish tank so that I could collect all of my favourite fish. Every Sunday, my dad and I usually went to the nearby pet shop, and he would patiently wait for me to closely examine the Betta fish before announcing my favourite. Fish have been ever-present in my life, and I’ve always been mesmerised by their various forms and diversity of colours.
I grew up in the middle of a small city surrounded by buildings in South Tangerang; the ocean is very distant. Still, I was naturally drawn to it whenever I watched an ocean documentary with large marine mammals. After graduating from high school, I always wanted to explore something that matters to me personally. In my family, becoming a civil servant or an engineer was the more traditional career route. My family often laughed at my decision to study marine science, because they thought that my career aspiration was to be a fisherman. At that time, they believed that studying marine science meant that I would have to voyage for years out in the open ocean – they worried that I would be at risk of drowning and being lost at sea.
When I was studying marine science during my undergraduate degree, I started to develop my passion for conservation. I always love marine megafauna with its mysterious life histories; sea turtles, whales, and sharks are so charismatic to me. In 2014, I started to focus on marine conservation with regard to shark fishing issues. Indonesia is the largest shark fishing nation globally. More than 100,000 tons of sharks and rays are exported annually, pushing more than 30% of threatened species to extinction in around the more 16,000 islands. But at that time, contributing to marine conservation always left me puzzled, and I still wondered what kind of individual contribution I could make to help conserve the endangered sharks.
To find out more about the impact of shark fishing on communities in Alor, read the article in Issue 18 of Oceanographic Magazine or find out here