Ever Wondered How a Shark Fisher Thinks?

27 Dec 2016

So did we!! So, as part of an assessment into Shark supply chains in Nusa Tenggara Barat we conducted a Focus Group Discussion entitled, “Assessment of Sustainable Fisheries Potential in West Nusa Tenggara: What alternatives to shark exist and what is the process of moving there?”


Shark Fishing is a very lucrative activity in Indonesia, with high returns being made, specifically through the sale of shark fins which are exported to various SE Asian markets. All other parts of the landed sharks are also used, predominantly going into the local market and finding their way into dishes such as bakso.

Several landing sites throughout the country have been identified as areas where the majority of the shark trade passes through, with local fishers and connected supply chains being intricately involved in this fishery. It is however clear that increasing international pressure which aims towards protection of many shark species, based on reports of decreasing stocks, means that these landing sites and ports may in the future not continue to be the hubs of activity that they currently are. CITES, as well as Indonesia’s national regulation are tightening around export on some species, as well as some being protected by law against catching. As this tightening happens what happens to the fishers who have built their livelihood around these fisheries and who may not have an immediate alternative? This is exactly what we aimed to discuss…to find out what is the current situation, to figure out sustainable alternatives and to listen to the fishers and their perspectives on the topic. Participants in the FGD included fishers, suppliers and local government.

Initial thoughts:

  • Shark fishers think very similarly to other fishers 🙂
  • They are very open to the idea of discussing alternative options and realize it’s better to be prepared to move to other fisheries than to wait until regulation makes their fishery ever restricted or even shut down
  • Often alternatives, especially alternatives which are other fisheries, are impossible due to available infrastructure (vessel sizes and gear access)
  • The stakeholders need and want more information on regulation
  • Fishers need more information on the dynamics of a balanced ocean and the food chains which exist in them, to understand the huge impact that taking away the top predators may have and the escalating effect this can have throughout the ocean

These fishermen and their connected supply chains are conducting a fishery which is becoming increasingly socially and environmentally unacceptable and rather than condemning them, we need to work with them to find good solutions for transitions out of their current fishery and into ones which can allow them to support their families, as well as be environmentally sustainable. A way to make this easier is of course also if the demand for their product decreases…. This is a plea for everyone reading this not to contribute to the demand for shark fins, less demand means less incentive to conduct the fishery in the first place!!

The results of the assessment and FGD will be compiled in a report including recommendations for alternative livelihoods for the area.

Focus Group Discussion in Nusa Tenggara Barat. Photo credit: MDPI

Writer: Momo Kochen

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