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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