December 30, 2021

To Fulfill the Mission of Conservation, Fishermen Vow to Stop Fishing Thresher Sharks

Alor – On Wednesday, 17th of November, 2021, the Government of Alor Regency, through its Planning, Research, and Development Agency (Bappelitbang); the Department of Marine Affairs and Fisheries Alor District; the East Nusa Tenggara Department of Marine Affairs and Fisheries; the Head of Northwest Alor Subdistrict, Police Chief of Alor; and the Commander of Military District (Dandim) 1622 Alor; in collaboration with the Governments of Lewalu and Ampera Villages as well as Thresher Shark Indonesia, had successfully provided donations to the Alor fishermen through a symbolic ceremony. The donation comes in the form of five 2GT fibreglass boats, two Yanmar 230 boat engines, two kinds of entrepreneur capital support, and 27 fishing equipment as well as 200 L fibre cool boxes. The aid was presented to two small-scale fishermen in two villages, Lewalu and Ampera. This donation is a form of partnership commitment between the Government of Alor Regency and Thresher Shark Indonesia, an ongoing partnership since 2018. The Alor Government conveyed their hope for this aid to encourage fishermen to transition from fishing thresher sharks to more sustainable fisheries.

Palawan Djafar, the Secretary of Alor Regency’s Department of Marine Affairs and Fisheries explained in his opening speech that the real conservation effort does not stop at simply protecting biodiversity, but continues further to provide welfare for the surrounding communities. On the same note, Mr Martinus De Porres Djeo, S.Pi, the Head of Northwest Alor Subdistrict, also mentioned that until recently, the communities were not aware of thresher shark’s endangered status. He continued to explain that the socialization and support from Thresher Shark Indonesia and the Government of Alor Regency had raised public awareness on the issue. Mr Martinus expressed his hope for there to be continuous efforts of collaboration for both conservation and fishermen empowerment.

The ceremony was part of a series of events which aims to support the transition of thresher shark fishing towards more sustainable fishing, one of which is small-scale tuna fisheries. The support given through this event does not only cover material aid, but also training in fisheries and financial management provided by Thresher Shark Indonesia in collaboration with the East Nusa Tenggara Department of Marine Affairs and Fisheries, under Alor’s Department of Marine Affairs and Fisheries. Saleh Goro, the Head of the Department, stated that both of the villages, Lewalu and Ampera, could serve as models in developing areas of marine conservation on community-based principles. Both villages will be developing marine tourism to be proposed to the Development and Zoning Plan for the Conservation Area of Pantar Strait and Surrounding Waters.

Following the opening speeches were the reading of the fishermen’s declaration and the signing of an agreement stating that the fishermen will no longer fish thresher sharks. The content of the declaration itself is as follows: “We, fishermen of Lewalu and Ampera Villages, declare that we will stop fishing thresher sharks and that we will release them if (unintentionally) caught. Through this opportunity, we declare that fishermen in both of these villages will guard and protect thresher sharks within the area of Pantar Strait and surrounding waters.”

The declaration was welcomed by the surrounding communities with enthusiasm. Agustinus Christmas, as the Police Chief of Alor, also relayed that the Alor Departmental Police is supporting conservation efforts of thresher sharks and the marine area of Alor through monitoring and surveillance of the area, as well as through increasing public awareness synergically with the government, NGOs and other parties. Supyan Munawar, as the Commander of Military District 1622 Alor, correspondingly conveyed that the Military District 1622 will also support marine conservation efforts, as it is a highly important resource for the people. He explained that as such, it is also the people’s common responsibility to preserve the sustainability of the ocean.

The event continued with the official ribbon-cutting ceremony of the Thresher Shark Information Center located in Lewalu Village. The centre is the result of a collaboration between the Lewalu Village Government through the Lewalu Village-Owned Enterprise and students of independent study under the Independent Campus program and with the guidance of Mala Tours. Finally, the concluding agenda of the event was the release of the aid boats which have been given to the fishermen. The symbolic release was attended by Dominggus Asadama, the Secretariat Assistant for Administration, Economy and Development of Alor. Dominggus relayed the message of Alor’s Regent which expressed the utmost gratitude towards Thresher Shark Indonesia for paying attention to fishermen by the aid given, as well as the Regent’s hope for fishermen to transition to tuna fisheries which have higher selling value. 

To close off the ceremony, Thresher Shark Indonesia reinstated that the conservation of thresher sharks would not have been possible without the help and support of various stakeholders, especially the governments of Lewalu and Ampera Villages. The representative of Thresher Shark Indonesia continued to state that throughout the course of their activities, Mr Ruslan Panawa (Head of Lewalu Village) and Mr Mustafa Moka (Head of Ampera Village) have always given their support by bringing about the villagers’ understanding of the importance of thresher shark conservation and by supporting all fishermen empowerment activities held by the organization in the two villages. The support is given by the Government of Alor Regency, the East Nusa Tenggara Department of Marine Affairs and Fisheries, the Indonesian Military and Police, tourists, and environmental observers and activists in Alor, have synergized well with the Thresher Shark Indonesia team in carrying out efforts of thresher shark conservation and fishermen empowerment.

The thresher shark or Alopias spp is a pelagic fish species living in deep ocean waters. Research on the habitat and behaviour of this species is considered rare. In 2019, the thresher shark was categorized as ‘Endangered’ according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. While in Indonesia, the thresher sharks are protected under the Regulation of the Minister of Marine Affairs and Fisheries (Permen KP) No. 30 of 2012, Article 73, and Regulation of the Minister of Marine Affairs and Fisheries No. 25 of 2013 about Capture Fisheries in WPP RI (Indonesia Fisheries Management Area) which states that it is compulsory to release thresher sharks when caught and to report any incidences of its death. These regulations are also supported by Permen KP No. 12 of 2012, Article 39, Chapter X about Capture Fisheries in Open Waters. It is therefore greatly unfortunate that the thresher shark (Alopias pelagicus) is still frequently being caught in several areas of Indonesia. 

Thresher Shark Indonesia is an initiative by youth which focuses on the conservation of thresher sharks through community-based efforts. This organization began with a single program in 2018. Now, Thresher Shark Indonesia has expanded to hold other programs to support communities and preserve the local environment, including the Thresher Shark Conservation Champion and Transition of Thresher Shark Fishermen Livelihood to Sustainable Small-Scale Tuna Fisheries programs.

Vivekananda G. TD and Cahyani Fortunitawanli