WEST SUMBAWA, Indonesia — More than a decade ago, Amiruddin would climb aboard a small fishing boat under the cover of night armed with around 10 bombs.
Amir, as he is commonly known, and his accomplices motored for around half an hour from the western shoreline of Indonesia’s Sumbawa Island to waters off the small island of Paserang. Then the men would detonate the explosives over the reef below, Amir told Mongabay Indonesia.
“I have done all the illegal fishing practices,” Amir said. “It’s because the yield was so great.”
Amir, who is in his late 30s, has ventured out to sea ever since he was a child. As a younger man, he would explore the islands off West Sumbawa district with explosives and poison, menacing schools of fish by carpet bombing the reefs where they fed.
Amir would haul vast quantities, often 500-1,000 kilograms (1,100-2,200 pounds) of fish shocked or maimed by the demolition. The explosives gained him a fourfold increase compared with less-destructive fishing practices, he said, but at the expense of around 10 square meters (107 square feet) of coral at a time.
“If you use fish bombs, it’s quick,” he said.
Amir’s luck almost ran out in 2010 when police found him cruising the waters off Gili Balu, an island off Sumbawa, looking for fish schools.
However, Amir was not carrying explosives on that occasion and police later released him from custody.
Amir then moved to the island of Bali, a day’s drive and two ferries from Sumbawa, where he saw for the first time communities participating in more vibrant coastal economies.
Every fortnight, Amir would travel back to Sumbawa. He had given up explosives after his arrest but began experimenting with a 100-m (328-ft) hose attached to a compressor, dousing schools of fish with poison.
The extreme approach nearly cost Amir his life when his stomach cramped and he had to be pulled to the surface.
“Half my body went numb,” he recalled.
Source: Mongabay News