coral blasting

Hoeksema, B.W. Hoeksema at
Tue Sep 22 04:34:54 EDT 1998

In reply to the message of Doug Fenner:

North Flores was considered one of the best dive areas in Indonesia 
until December 1992, when an earthquake occurred, followed by
a tsunami and a cyclone (see "Diving Indonesia, A guide to the
World's Greatest Diving", edition 1996: p. 152). Apparently,
blast fishing is removing the corals that have remained so far.

Until August 1998, I have been studying the effect of blast fishing at 
South Sulawesi during the last 4.5 years. On average, I heard two blasts

every hour  underwater. Some of the explosions were close and other 
ones were far away since the sound of blasts can be carried over long 
distances through water.

Coral recovery appears to be a slow process with little long-term 
effect since the blast craters contain rubble that does not
form a solid and safe substratum to young coral recruits.

Blast fishing is a well-known practice in SE Asia that has 
been difficult to control since the first decades of this century.
Although the price of rice has increased in Indonesia, so has the price
of fish. Especially fishermen who cater to the export business earn much
money (Dollars converted into Rupiahs). This group of rich fishermen, 
however, is a small minority.

If the occurrence of blast fishing has increased due to the
economic crisis in Indonesia, then this would indeed be a disaster
for the reefs with consequences for a long time.

It is likely that fishermen would go to reefs more remote
if the reefs nearby would become useless as a resource. This
can also be seen in the over-fishing of sea cucumbers. Their (export)
price has increased drastically (in Dollars and even more Rupiahs). 
However, with regard to blast fishing, most fishermen are after
like schools of mackerels and fuseliers, and these are not necessarily 
depending on healthy coral reefs. It is just that they can be caught
easily above shoals of 3-7 m depth after they become hit by a blast and 
sink to the bottom. Blasts in the open sea are useless because the fish 
would sink out of reach, unless the fishermen would use expensive nets. 

Fishermen who use explosives are aware that they cause damage to their 
environment. Just telling them about this is not enough. They are among
the poorest people in Indonesia and they often risk their lifes at sea. 
For them it is a matter of survival which is difficult to comprehend by
most of
us who sit in front of a screen on our desk.

Doug Fenner's message is right in bringing this problem to
our attention. The problem is that we have not been able to stop what
has been going on for decades. And now it appears to have become
worse than ever. I wonder who or which organisation can do something
about this.

Best regards,

Bert W. Hoeksema

Bert W. Hoeksema
National Museum of Natural History Naturalis
P.O. Box 9517
2300 RA  Leiden
The Netherlands
Tel.: +31.71.5687631
Fax: +31.71.5687666
E-mail: Hoeksema at

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