The questionably good news was no manta rays or large sharks were brought in. The bad news: there were several piles small sharks including many baby scalloped hammerheads (Sphyrna lewini), which as of March 2013 has CITES Appendix II protection. The fact that there were no larger scalloped hammerheads is very disturbing as rumor has it there are no mature breeding hammerheads left in the area so the smaller juvenile population is now being wiped out. Granted there is an 18 month socialization period for the CITES listing to take affect, and it seems they are using this time to completely annihilate the entire local hammerhead population.
There were also two mobula rays, which are not protected by CITES and they are a manta species look alike. This is very concerning as it would be simple to claim ignorance if a manta was caught. There are gill identification guides, but to ID the gills the animal has to be dead and dismembered, so these are not too effective whilst on the boat. An issue that is also overlooked is the transference of fishery pressure onto mobula populations in reaction to the protection of mantas. Clearly, the most effective way to avoid any confusion and get the best protection is a straight ban on anything with cephalic fins.
BUT, the real shocker was seeing five dead dolphins which looked like Long-beaked Common Dolphins (Delphinus capensis). We are not dolphin experts, but we do know, as does everyone in the Tanjung Luar market, that it’s illegal to fish dolphins in Indonesia. The market manager was quite nervous when he saw us taking these pictures which leads me to believe he was aware the dolphins were there – an event that usually causes the market people to turn their backs and ignore the situation; obviously we did not ignore them. Several other locals mentioned that dolphins being in the market is not an uncommon occurrence. As proof of guilt, the offending boat offloaded the carcasses in Tanjung Luar harbor, not on the jetty. The dolphin bodies then were brought to shore in a small outrigger then subsequently brought on land and hidden from view between the two trough-like brick structures in the photo. In addition, we noticed the mandatory signage prohibiting dolphin catch has been torn down as well as the sign announcing the protection of thresher sharks and turtles.
These photographs have been forwarded to JAAN (Jakarta Animal Aid Network), an animal welfare organization that has worked tirelessly to outlaw dolphin circuses in Indonesia. JAAN is also responsible in helping to draft national protection legislation for dolphins, which the government in Jakarta thinks is working. You can bet that these images of slaughtered dolphins will certainly raise some eyebrows as top-level government officials really do not like to “loose face”. As of writing this, JAAN already has a meeting scheduled.
Yes, it’s frustrating and we know these images are very disturbing. This is a very complicated situation and to be effective we must follow the correct political protocol. As much as we want to scream, we absolutely cannot. Also, the reality is that what is happening at Tanjung Luar is not an isolated situation, there are fisheries all over the world that operate like this and we must take them on one by one.
So, how can you help? First of all, keep reading this blog; this way you can educate yourself regarding the complexities of the situation. Then read the all other AWARE blogs to get up to speed on what’s happening in our oceans. Then at some point, we will mobilize all of you and ask for your help. We don’t know exactly how yet, but we will. To be effective we must plan, this cannot be a knee-jerk reaction.
So, in the mean time, stay in touch with Aquatic Alliance and the Gili Eco Trust on Facebook, and most importantly, keep the fire burning in your blue hearts.