Saturday, July 29, 2017

Life Near the Sea

A fisherman in Airkuning, a fishing village on the Indian Ocean in southwest Bali, carries an outrigger to shore after landing his canoe (background) following a night at sea. 

A lot has been written in the international press lately about fishing in waters of Southeast Asia. Most of it is bad news related to overfishing, depletion of fish species, slavery and climate change. Factory trawlers, many crewed by virtual slaves, prowl the seas scooping up everything that swims. Fish that have market value (big predator fish and tuna - especially tuna) are kept on ice and processed. Small fish or fish that don't have market value are ground up into fish meal. The oceans are being emptied before our eyes. 

Villagers push outriggers up onto the beach in Airkuning. 

Some people, though, still cling to their traditional life. One such community is Airkuning, in southwest Bali. People here still go to sea every night in tiny outrigger canoes to do subsistence fishing for their families and to sell what they don't eat (or vice versa, and eat what they don't sell). The canoes are much smaller than they look. The "deck" is a rattan mat practically at gunwale level. Nets and the catch, when there is one, are stored below deck. They still have masts and sails and use wind power when they can but almost all of them also have outboard motors.
An outrigger under engine power motors through the breakers on its way out to lay nets. 

Their catch is getting smaller all the time though. As the boats came in while I was there, very few had a usable catch. Many were empty. 
A woman carries supplies from her husband's canoe back to their home after he came back in the morning. 

Perhaps even more shocking was that nets hauled in from shore pulled in little besides tiny, palm sized fish and plastic (there is always plastic). 

Men haul in net lines set out by a canoe earlier in the morning. 
This was their catch. It took about 15 men more than an hour to haul in a net line about a kilometer long. And this is all that came out of it. Some small fish and plastic bags. 

Whether or not they do it by choice, I have a lot of respect for people who live this way. I don't think I could do it and I realize that by the luck of the circumstances I was born into I don't have to. 
Men coil up the net after it was hauled in. 

A family brings their canoe up the beach. 

A canoe is brought up the beach. Outriggers, that prevent the tiny vessels from flipping, lay on the sand, waiting to be collected. 


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