Tuna is one of world’s most favorite marine produces. Most people who eat fish love the taste, and by this affection toward the fish we can literally find parts of its body being sold everywhere all around the world nowadays.
No wonder that tuna is one of the biggest industries in fishery. The otoro slice you eat in your favorite sushi restaurant is actually a small part of $40 billion worldwide business. However, too much affection can be bad for you, and for tuna too.
Although there are plenty other fish in the ocean, apparently we still cannot turn our eyes off this fish. So many people want to grab some of that $40 billion bounty, so they set sail to bring those fish to our table without really concerning about their population in the ocean.
Indonesia, as one of the largest maritime country and also the world’s largest tuna fishing country, realized that if we keep hunting down the fish brutally, they will disappear from the wild. That’s why the country set up rather unique strategy to tackle the terror of tuna-overfishing which includes bombing fishing ships!
How does this strategy work? And why should they bomb fishing ships?
There are many kinds of tunas, such as skipjack, frigate, slender, and albacores which further can be divided into two more kinds, the yellowfin group and the Bluefin group. All those kinds of tunas mentioned above are ‘ordinary’, except the Bluefin one.
Bluefin tuna is one of the most expensive marine produce in the world. This fish can grow into a gigantic monster weighting about 500 pounds. Interestingly, the more it weights, the more it costs, as a 612-pound Bluefin tuna has been sold for $3 million at Tsukiji fish market in Japan.
Is it worth it? Well, it is difficult to answer, since Bluefin tuna is said to have the highest quality meat among other kinds. But that’s not the only bargaining point, pacific Bluefin tuna is also the rarest kind of tuna in the world that now it belongs to endangered species. Nowadays, fishermen are banned from fishing for pacific Bluefin tuna outside japan.
Does it affect overall tuna business? Well, not really, because Bluefin tuna is not the biggest contributor in the business. In fact, the combination of ‘lesser’ tunas like yellowfin and skipjack contribute more to the $40 billion bounty.
The problem is, by having less expensive price tag and smaller size, it means that they are being hunted in far more quantity than the endangered Bluefin tuna. Some of those practices are done illegally, including those were done in Indonesia.
As mentioned above, some tuna fishing practices are done illegally, including in Indonesia. By illegal, it doesn’t always mean that the fishermen are fishing for tunas without permission, but also by using dangerous tools like fish bombs or harpoon nets.
Not only inflicting financial cost to the country itself, but illegal practices costs a lot to our environment too. Dangerous tools used to catch tuna like fish bombs can destroy coral reef without mercy, while harpoon nets will also entrap small young fish which then wipe out a whole generation of fish.
Susi Pudjiastuti, which has been appointed as Indonesian Minister of Marine Affairs and Fishery took immediate action toward illegal fishing as soon as her appointment. Her action of choice was pretty radical: bombing illegal fishing boats.
“The fisheries minister Susi Pudjiastuti has taken a worldwide lead in terms of addressing illegal fishing in a country that has had major issues in this area,” said Martin Purves, managing director of International Pole & Line Foundation (IPNLF).
“A lot of it has been quite public campaigns where vessels have been confiscated or set alight at sea and bombed. But in addition to publicity-grabbing efforts there has been a lot done to improve the legislative framework and great work on transparency,” Purves added.
So, the question is, how effective is this radical action to solving Indonesia’s fishery problems? Some might assume that it’s just a kind of gimmick to ward off illegal fishermen from other countries, but data found out that it’s pretty effective.
Indonesian fish stock has been doubled in the last five years, since the appointment of the minister. And to farm such a great amount of fish from the ocean, Indonesia has applied a special fishing ‘norm’ called one hook one fish to especially catch the country’s number one ocean produce, tuna.
In practice, there are three methods used, which are pole-and-line, handline, and troll. All of those methods are basically catching fish using fishing poles. The difference is the number of fishing poles used in a boat.
Pole-and-line is done by throwing baitfish overboard to attract tuna, while the fishermen on board are catching the tunas by using single pole and barbless hook. This is the most used method, and also the most traditional method of catching tuna.
Handline is used by fishermen with smaller boats, and basically just ordinary fishing with rods and baits. Troll is done by bigger boats that can deploy a lot more fishing lines. The fishing lines are drawn through the water behind a vessel. When a tuna is caught, fishers pull the line to unhook the fish.
The Bomb And The Hook
The combination of those actions, bombing illegal fishing boats and applying one-hook-one-fish norm to catch tuna, has brought so many benefits to a lot of people. By a lot of people, we mean a lot of them, starting from local fishermen, the country itself, and even everyone all around the world.
‘The bombing show’ is effective enough to ward off illegal fishing boats, which most of the come from foreign countries. As a result, local fishermen can get more fish even though they can only use one-hook-one-fish method.
“Data shows that our traditional and small-scale fisheries have benefited, and their catch has double, from the implemented policy,” said Trian Yunanda, deputy director at the ministry of Marine Affairs and Fishery to The Guardian.
And with eco-friendlier method of catching tuna, the whole world can sleep soundly because there is no more threat for ocean’s ecosystem from fish bombing and harpoon nets. It might be the only way how bombing fishing boats can benefit us.