Environmental authorities in Bontang, East Kalimantan, have acknowledged that dynamite fishing is responsible for much of the damage to the coral reefs off the city’s coast, but say little can be done to end the practice.
Baharuddin, head of the Bontang Environmental Office, said on Monday that 4,200 of the 6,000 hectares of coral reefs in the area were badly damaged, mostly from dynamite fishing.
“It’s a practice that the fishermen here have been using since the 1990s and one that is still commonly used,” he said.
“Not only is it destroying the reefs, it’s also preventing any new marine life from flourishing here for the next several years. That’s because by destroying the reefs, they’re destroying the habitat for hundreds of other marine species.”
Baharuddin’s statement comes a week after the environmental group Concern for Equator Environment Forum warned that 70 percent of the reefs off Bontang were severely damaged from industrial and domestic waste dumping, the use of explosives by local fishermen, and the mining of the coral as construction material.
Forum chairman Laode Udin said last Tuesday that in the wake of the gas and mining boom in Bontang, fishermen began using dynamite to increase their catches, and that the illegal practice was largely ignored by the authorities.
Baharuddin acknowledged that there was little in the way of enforcement against dynamite fishing because of the difficulty in trying to crack down on a practice that was carried out by nearly all fishermen in the area.
“Two fishermen were recently arrested for dynamite fishing, but that won’t discourage them from continuing to do it,” he said.
He added another problem thwarting the authorities was that the chemicals needed to make the explosives was widely available across the city.
“Their awareness of the damage that they’re doing to the environment remains very low,” Baharuddin said. “We’re continuing to campaign against dynamite fishing and trying to encourage the local community to fish in a more environmentally sustainable way.”
Laode agreed that it was difficult to get the fishermen to change their habits, given that other means of fishing did not net them the kind of catches that they could get through dynamite fishing.