I first learned to fish when I was young. My parents taught me, and they said that our island of Karimun Jawa was the absolute best place for it because it lay between Java and Borneo, where the seas are rich and bountiful.
My name is Madjuri and I’m still a fisherman, except I’m a parent myself now, with a wife and two sons. I was born in Karimun Jawa and I’ve lived here my whole life. Karimun Jawa, renowned for its national marine park teeming with turtles, sharks and fish, is my home.
In the past, we didn’t have to sail too far to get fish; just five kilometers was enough and we’d net hundreds of kilos. These days, things have changed. Coal barges pass through this area transporting coal from mines in Indonesia.
When it rains, water flows off the top of the barges into the ocean, turning it black. When it’s hot and the sun is baking down, the coal heats up and starts to smoke, making us cough and we have trouble breathing. Once, my friend started violently vomiting because the fumes were too much.
Worst of all, the coal barges park near the reef where we local fishermen lay our bait and our traps. When the barges come in, the bait is gone and the traps are destroyed. The reef is demolished – crushed by the barges, pulverised by their anchors. Once teeming with life, now no fish wants to stay there, which means we don’t have enough to feed our families.
We also fish cuttlefish at night, using light to attract them to our boat. But the coal barges have brighter lights than ours so they end up fishing those cuttlefish, further depleting us from our income.
We’ve filed reports and complaints to the local authorities, pleading the barges park elsewhere, outside the national park area and away from the traditional fisheries zone. But nothing has happened.
If this continues, our children will suffer, because no one will be able to fish here.
I want the beauty of Karimun Jawa to be enjoyed by future generations – I tell them it’ll soon be up to them to preserve its pristine nature.
Until then, for the good of the coral and our community, please help us stand up against these destructive barges.
Madjuri, who goes by one name, is a fisherman and member of the local community in Karimun Jawa, Central Java, Indonesia