Researching eco-friendly fishing gear

Tuna handline fishers nowadays are increasingly dependent on heavy stones to use as weights. In fact, they are finding it difficult to collect stones, thus needing to spend more money on either buying or venturing out further to get more stones. In a day, one fisherman can release up to 40 stones weighing 1 kg into the sea, sometimes more, every day. The more fishers use this method, the more stones are thrown into the sea; this will impact not only the environment, but ultimately the social conditions within a community.

In an effort to finding solutions to this issue, MDPI is collaborating with the Fisheries Research Center (PUSRISKAN) under the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries (MMAF) to conduct a research on fishing gears that are more environmentally friendly. MDPI and PUSRISKAN will soon conduct trials for the use of other more permanent ballast than can be used multiple times, as an alternative to one-time drop stones. To ensure and solidify the next steps in this research, a meeting between PUSRISKAN, MDPI, and AP2HI was conducted in Bogor on September 17 to discuss further research on the use of permanent drop-stones (alternative ballast made of stones or concrete cement) for deep sea tuna handline fishing.

Sediments that enter the ocean ecosystems can cause the loss of not only fish, but macro invertebrates and other aquatic organisms, due to ecosystem damage (Higgins, et. al. 2007). According to Wildan, MDPI’s Fisheries Manager, social issues can arise as one of the impacts of this unsustainable fishing practice. “Social issues that may arise include conflict between fishers due to limited stone availability, even relocation of residence and fishing grounds that are closer to stone sources,” he explains. “This could even create economic issues, as fishers have also started to spend more money to buy stones or make concrete-based ballast.”

Stones have become an important element of fishing gear, no less important than bait. So much so that it’s as if the term “can’t fish without bait” has now shifted to “can’t fish without stones”. Given the urgency of this issue, permanent drop-stone research will soon be carried out at MDPI’s project sites, one of which being Seram in Maluku, and we are hopeful that this will provide an alternative solution to using natural stones.

Happy people, many fish!