The Nelayan are traditional Indonesian fishermen, fishing on small boats to catch sardine-like fish called Lemuru, Petek or the larger Red Snapper. The fishermen have been forced to live with smaller catches, caused by rising plastic levels in the nets, the ocean and on the beaches.

As the nets get full of plastic, the fish stay away, so they bring in a smaller catch and less money. Smaller catches mean a leaner summer and even leaner winter. Many of the Nelayan I spoke to here say it’s locals causing the plastic and rubbish on the beaches, and there is only a small local dump with no waste collection. People find it easier to throw their rubbish out into the rivers and onto the beach. Even when some locals try and clean it, it is bad again the next day, some I spoke to says it causes them to cry at night.

The larger boats can travel more than 100km to reach fish stocks, and these distances are growing every year as fish stocks reduce, the smaller boats will only travel out a few kilometres as their smaller nets are catching smaller fish. As the nets get full of plastic the fish stay away, so they bring in a smaller catch and less money, smaller catches mean leaner summers and even slimmer winters.

Fishing was a dangerous job before the problems caused by the rising levels of plastic, and they would often work incredibly long hours, sleeping on the larger boats with no shade or protection from the elements. In strong seas, men are often washed overboard and with no protective equipment they sadly often vanish, the group of fishermen I spoke to in Blimbing and Brondong said they had lost 43 people in 8 years. The government was aware of the dangers of the job and had provided life jackets, but they made it hard to work, so they are not worn.

The risks were always substantial, and many saw it as worth it when it was lucrative, but the plastic is causing so many issues that many wonder whether it is worth the risk.

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Tom Barnes  Rotting Lemuru - A rotting Lemuru fish surrounded by plastic.
Tom Barnes  Iwan - sits on a wrecked boat surrounded by plastic in the harbour at Blimbing.
Tom Barnes  Effendis - Plastic bags hang off the ropes on his boat.
Tom Barnes  Kamiludin - Tembokrejo beach was black sand and pebbles but is now mainly rubbish.
Tom Barnes  Ali - stands in the harbour at Blimbing in Lamongan surrounded by rubbish.
Tom Barnes  Yono - sits on fishing rope at Brondong dock.
Tom Barnes  Basrawi - before heading out for the second trip of the day.
Tom Barnes  Aziz - scraping off barnacles on the support of his fishing boat.
Tom Barnes  “your waste is prohibited here” - A sign reads
Tom Barnes  Permadi - stands on rocks covered in rope, plastic and netting.
Tom Barnes  Glass fibre hands - A fisherman applies glass fibre by hand.
Tom Barnes  Hayati - raking out fish scales on the bank of the dead river.
Tom Barnes  Anis - picking through rubbish at Tembokrejo beach.
Tom Barnes  Discarded ropes - holds the 'new coastline' that discarded plastic, rope and fishing nets create.
Tom Barnes  Darkam - holding part of the 'new coastline' that discarded plastic, rope and fishing nets create.
Tom Barnes  Kusomo - a local fisherman at Brondong.
Tom Barnes  Bukad - stood on Satellite beach surrounded by plastic.
Tom Barnes  Imron - says this is known locally as Kalamati (it translates as dead river)
Tom Barnes  Indonesian fishermen and their plastic problem. - said the issue with plastic started in the 1990s.
Tom Barnes  Susilo - locals stopped cleaning as it washes in with every tide.
Tom Barnes  Gunarto - sea fishing on rocks covered in rags, washed-up plastic and rope.
Tom Barnes  Harip -
Tom Barnes  Maimunah - said children have only ever known the beach to be covered.
Tom Barnes  Susilo - an elder fisherman, working from Brondong.
Tom Barnes  Brondong Sunset - Traditional Indonesian fishing boats at Brondong.
Tom Barnes  Bukad - surrounded by plastic that washes up or discarded.
Tom Barnes  Washed up and discarded waste - Discarded rubbish help make up the coastline at Brondong.
Tom Barnes  Ardi - fixing the boat in the harbour at Blimbing, surrounded by plastic and rubbish.
Tom Barnes  Sayuti - said it just felt hopeless.