February 13, 2019
Fishing was his livelihood, but there was often little to no fish in the waters. Without anything to catch, he worried constantly about how to make money.
However, what Henri didn’t realize back then was that he and his fellow fishermen were causing the fish population to decline.
Unaware of the dangers, the fishermen were using poison and electricity to kill and catch fish – a practice which is also illegal.
“They didn’t know that poison pollutes the river ecosystem, so even if there were fish remaining in the river after, it would be very difficult for them to survive in a polluted river of poor quality,” said Edy Suprayitno, RER Kampar Peninsula Estate Manager.
The fishermen were exacerbating the problem by setting fires to burn the pandan or rasau leaves which grow along the river.
“These leaves are quite abundant and sometimes block the fishermen’s access to the river, making it difficult for their boats to pass through. So the fishermen burn them to gain access to the river and fish,” Edy said.
Burning the leaves causes the fish to retreat from the river banks – where they tend to seek food or shelter among the plants – and into fish traps which the fishermen set up.
While all these methods helped to catch a lot of fish in a short time, the fishermen were overfishing, and could not understand why it took such a long time for new fish to respawn afterwards.
When this happened, they had choice but to wait for the river to recover and be habitable again for fish to breed, before repeating the impractical cycle.
However, things changed when RER arrived and started to assist the fishermen in 2016.
“We educated them about the dangers of using electricity, poison and fire to catch fish, and how these actions can negatively impact the fish population,” said Edy.
So far, RER has worked with 21 fishing households, providing the fishermen with new fishing rods, nets and traps, as well as new boat engines, to make their jobs easier.
“The fishermen have also learned how the fires they used to set would be dangerous to some of the animals residing in RER, including endangered animals.
“Since 2015, there has been zero burning activity in RER,” said Edy.
Although the RER team has yet to evaluate the increase in fishermen’s monthly income, the team has been tracking their fish production and recorded significant improvements.
In 2017, the fishermen brought in 3,737 kg of fish. This figure doubled in 2018, when the fishermen caught 7,459 kg of fish.
Typically, a kilogramme of fresh fish is sold on average at IDR 30,000 to IDR 60,000 at the market, while a kilogramme of dry fish can fetch IDR 150,000.
For now, RER plans to continue assisting the fishermen in improving their livelihoods, signing a new MoU with the fishermen in February 2019 to solidify its commitment.