$$$ Should We Pay More for Our Fish? $$$

14 Jul 2015
Indah Rufiati

On May 2015, we as the mFish team of Yayasan Masyarakat dan Perikanan Indonesia (MDPI) had an assignment to join an mFish ethnographic research with a team from Future of Fish. The team consisted of researchers and an anthropologist, who aimed to conduct their research by utilizing Human-centered design (HCD). HCD works to identify individuals’ motivations in order to identify incentives that align between the existing values of the fishers in this case, with the desired outcomes of the project implementers, namely an environmental NGO. The strategy is based on the idea that humans have reasons for behaving the way we do. By looking deeply at a system and learning from various actors within it, HCD strives to influence the system without having to change minds. Research methodology involved in-depth interviews and extensive field observations, through immersion into the community. The interviews were easy flowing and covered all sides of the fishermen personal life. MDPI’s Nuri, Indah, Wildan and Nanda acted as translators and observers for the mFish project. While translating and observing, we learned much about the life of fishermen at sea and also discovered a lot about their feelings, fears and passions as fishermen. Here are the stories about our handline fishermen we want to share:

Fishing Trip Preparation

Fishermen will tell you that things don’t always go well on the sea. However, long experiences have taught them that things go much better when they are well prepared. Besides mental preparation and boat checking, they also have to prepare important supplies like rice, fresh water and vegetables. Food and fresh water supply are easier to get than fuel supply and ice supply. Fishermen in some locations of Indonesia often face the difficulties getting fuel supply. The longer the queue for fuel, the longer they must wait until they can continue on their next trip. After all of the preparation is done, the fishers set sail to the ocean.

Skill, foresight, toughness and the ability to know the sea and mastering of fishing techniques should be owned by fishermen. Being able to identify areas where fish congregate is a skill they all desperately need and want in order to have successful trips and catches.

The Best Moments of being a fisher, according to Fishermen

As fishermen, their main purpose is fishing for a living for the family, but apparently they also do it as a hobby. You’ve probably heard the phrase ‘find a job you enjoy and you’ll never work a day in your life’. Well, it could be the same as those perceived by the fishermen. If you ask them “What is your hobby?” you will probably get an answer “Fishing in the ocean to give you fish to eat, is nothing but a hobby. Most of the time I do nothing”

They are really happy when fishing, seems like blending into the ocean and taking fish as a gift of life.

When we asked about the best moment of fishing, they said that the best moment is when the fish bite the bait… the moment when a fish is pulling the bait and line and is deciding whether or not to eat it. It is hard to describe the feeling, but the suspense when they see the handline tip is deliberately moving up and down, or maybe the line is being tugged and they know something is about to happen but not sure what, those are the best moments of being a fisherman while fishing. For your information, the handline they drop into water can reach 200 meters depth and they can feel that something is going on deep down there. It is amazing how they are able to develop the “feeling” over time.

When we dug more about the best moments of fishing, they broke down the feeling to something more specific such as: “Securing catch means that I will be able to go home with fish to sell and hence able to support my family.”

We also observed that it is hard when the hook has finally hooked the large yellowfin, as once the fish knows it is hooked it will fight to escape more aggressively. While at sea with the mFish team it took 3 fishermen about 3 hours to alternately push and pull until the fish had no strength to fight anymore. After that long fight, finally they brought a yellowfin tuna of approximately 65 kg weight on board… a very healthy catch! In ideal circumstances, when a fishing line hooks a fish by the mouth it will take around 45 minute until 1 hour to finally get the fish onboard.

So now, the question is how much more should we pay for or appreciate the origin of the fish we eat? When we already know that for one fish, they may pull the line for 1-3 hours, spend 2-3 weeks per month at sea and face many more natural risks, should we be paying more to enjoy our sushi?

Photo Credit: Nandana Godjali, Charley Scull and Indah Rufiati

Writers: Nandana Godjali, Indah Rufiati and Wildan

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