Fishing for Thresher sharks by local communities in the Alor regency has been happening for more than 50 years. Despite this, fishing for Thresher sharks does not hold any cultural or traditional significance for the people of the Lewalu and Ampera communities of Alor. They simply fish for Thresher sharks when they cannot catch other fish. To them, Thresher sharks have the same value as other targeted fish such as Tuna and Snapper. Thresher sharks are not targeted for their fins by the fisherman and instead are utilised for their meat as a source of subsistence food and income for the communities. Although the sharks are not targeted for the high price of their fins, the fins are still utilised and forwarded / sold into the shark fin trade in eastern Indo.
To catch the Thresher sharks when the other fish are out of season, the fisherman would modify their fishing lines / technique and use a combination of wool, silk, and pandas leaves as lures to attract the sharks. These fishing lines can be set down to 250m deep and are attached with big rocks and dried coconut leaves as weights. A group of 5-6 fishing hooks are attached to this drop line and strung together with chicken feathers and colourful strings to lure the Thresher shark in. The Thresher shark uses its unique hunting technique of tail whipping to try ‘stun’ the lure and instead gets entangled / caught by the tail into the fishing line. Most Thresher sharks are caught in the early morning around 4-8am. Catch rates are highest during the months of March – April, in which 4-5 individuals can be landed daily.
One the sharks have been brought back to shore by the fisherman, they are then processed and sold by the fisherman’s wife to the local market in Kalabahi for local consumption and subsistence protein sources. The shark fins are sold to Larantuka and then transported to Makassar or Surabaya for export.
Thresher Shark Project Indonesia
Alor Island, East Nusa Tenggara
Thresher Shark Project Indonesia was founded in 2018 and initially supported by the Conservation Leadership Programme for Asia Pacific Region. Our work aiming to protect endangered pelagic thresher shark (Alopias pelagicus) in Alor Island, Indonesia through investigating the critical habitat, socio-economic importance of the species for the community and conservation outreach to local schools. We combine research and community engagement to inform policy decision for local protection of the species.