Ban The Bombs

Monday, 11 February 2013

Photos: John Barton

The pristine Mentawai Islands, long a favourite of travelling surfers, are in need of our help as large fishing co-operatives have moved into the archipelago and are dynamiting the seas. Not only is blast fishing illegal, but the practice of bombing the ocean is far from sustainable as it doesn't discriminate what it kills. From the smallest of creature to the enormous live reefs itself the bombing rapes the ocean and offers little opportunity for regeneration.

Blast fishing is nothing new in Asia, but it's been a long time since the highly illegal technique was last witnessed in the Ments. In the last couple of days the below video has gone viral in the surfing community, who are understandably angered and appalled. 

We talked to Paul Clark, owner and operator of Pitstop Hill in the Playgrounds area, and while he personally hasn't witnessed much, he reports that the industry and community in the area most certainly have.

According to Paul the bombings have been going since Christmas Day (35 days). There are three big boats working in the area, with little canoes running off them to harvest and return fish. On each run the canoes are setting between five and eight bombs, and they are carrying out as many as five runs a day. At present this is all happening within a 15mile radius in the southern Siberut area of the Mentawais.

These are not local fisherman harvesting a catch to feed their families, these are large, organized fleets from elsewhere who travel to the region with the intention of pillaging its ocean. These fleets can be dangerous, and in the past bombs have even been thrown at those who've tried to intervene. The police and military, a regular presence in the area, are choosing not to intervene despite the illegality of what is going on, which would lead one to assume a level of compliance and corruption in all of this. 

One resort in the area has reported that a dead dugong washed up on its shore, while another has collected manta rays and even a sack full of dead fish from their beachfront.

Thousands of fish are under threat from the bomb fishermen. Thousands of fish are under threat in this pristine environment.

It's not just wildlife that is suffering, the other issue with the bombings is the damage to the reefs below. At times bombs have been thrown less then 200m from the popular wave of Hideaways, and less than a kilometres from the NoKandui Left, Nipussi, Rifles and Burgerworld. 

Matt Wilkinson duck dives through a crystal clear wave.Matt Wilkinson enjoying the pristine waters during the SL On Location issue last year.

So far there have been meetings between stakeholders, heads of districts and heads of the fisheries department, but there has yet to be anything done to stop them. So what can you do to help?

A petition has been set up, and naturally the more people who sign it the harder it becomes for authorities to ignore. Obviously this is not a solution to the problem, but the petition is the first step in the right direction.

For anyone who has ever surfed the perfect waves of the Mentawais, or would one day like to, we can't encourage you strongly enough to get along to https://www.change.org/mentawaibombs to do your bit for one of the wonders of the surfing world.

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