Earth Advocates -

The gradual death of the Archipelago

On April 18, 1997 a Japanese fishing fleet leader, carrying a Filipino passport checked into a Manado Home stay to lodge three Filipino fisherman. After checking them in he was overheard instructing the fisherman "change your clothes so we can transfer the water bombs". The tourist informed the Home stay owner, who in turn informed an immigration Justice Department official., who immediately took steps to investigate the case. Five days later two of the fishermen were finally apprehended and interrogated. The ensuing investigation led to the Harbor city of Bitung, N.E. Sulawesi, in which at least 120 illegal fisherman were arrested and deported (most Filipinos and some Taiwanese). Others were kept for further investigation of illegal fishing practices in Indonesian waters. The investigation is continuing as only the tip of the iceberg in the raping of Indonesian waterways, coral reefs, and fish life continues. At the same time, a Japanese fishing fleet of four trawlers were outside the Harbor of Manado awaiting final clearance to go fishing. They had formed a joint-venture partnership with an Indonesian so that they could fly the Indonesian flag. They would be legal and free to roam parts of the Indonesian Archipelago. The sponsor, in fact, would only share a portion of the profits without even once going to sea! The Japanese fleet, is nothing like the local Indonesian fishing fleets, which are large wooden boats with draw lights and two way radios, this fleet of steel, loaded from top to bottom with sophisticated satellite tracking devices and all other advance technology needed, means "real" business! The advantage of this fleet is that it can track schools of fish quickly, haul the fish and load them onto partner ships, and transfer the load out of Indonesian waters undetected. At the same time, they can keep a track on any Navy or Coast Guard boat to avoid any possible detection. A problem sometimes neutralized by the easily obtained Indonesian flag they are flying. This may seem farfetched but in fact it was verified by a Filipino ship owner. He admitted he takes five to ten times the allotted quota or officially registered fish haul thus raping the seas further.

Trawl Fishing, not only destroys natural growth on the ocean floor, but also takes all those forms of fish that live there, as these Sting Rays
Meanwhile over 80% of Indonesian fish fleets using traditional methods of fishing sometimes spend many days catching a meager load compared to the Japanese fleet and all others, whose overexploitation contribute to the locals meager catches. In fact almost all traditional Indonesian fishing boats are registered at the fisheries department and are expected to register their catches. Further more, according to some fishermen and authorities, many foreign fleets primarily of Taiwanese, Filipino, Hong Kong and South Korean origins, using high tech satellite radar tracking systems, enter Indonesian waters flying either no flag to avoid identification, or their own flag without fear of detection. These fishing boats don't have the correct licensees or documentation to fish within Indonesian waters however due to superior technology and other factors they go officially undetected! Meanwhile in April 97, a couple hundred kilometers south east, in the Gorontalo area, an uninvited European photographer stumbles upon a massive construction of holding pens, full of the CITIES protected Napoleon Wrasses, turtles, other large migrating sea mammals, and large coral fish. These reminded him of the simpler version of holding pens he discovered around the Tukanbesi Islands, Togian Islands, and Banggai Islands, however these were different. Different due to the fact that they were built as fixed structures. They had walkways along the pens leading to an office and connecting rooms. Outside the main office a large satellite communication dish stood, inside high tech communication systems with two way radio and satellite telephones, not to mention the openly
Cyanide Poisoned fish are being sold all over Indonesia's fish markets, this one in Pangandaran, Java. The only eye left popping out of its socket, one of the effects of Cyanide
exposed cyanide poison bottles with the accompanying equipment plus water bombs (explosive preparations). The photographer acting naive to the operation allowed the Chinese operator (believed to be a Taiwanese or Hong Kong Chinese who spoke poor Indonesian) to give him a tour of the illegal operation he was running. The photographer was told of the Hong Kong boat that arrived about once a week, normally undetected or unobstructed in and out of Indonesian waters to pick up the tons of protected and unprotected species caught by various such operations. Eventually the operator granted the reporter a lift par speedboat to his desired destination, an eastward remote village. Leaving the scene the photographer was left to wonder how many of these permanently fixed operations actually exist in Indonesia functioning 'officially' unregistered, unmonitored, and practically uninterrupted as they systematically destroy and rape the reefs and sea life of Indonesia. How much time will it take? At another location, 200 KM south of Gorontalo, a group of tourists were diving the partially beautiful reefs off the Togian Islands. After ascending from the dive they asked the dive instructor about the booming sounds they heard. He replied, "dynamite fishing" you can hear those explosions everyday. This is normal
The most elegant glider in the seas, the Spotted Eagle Rays are not spared after being caught in illegal coastal Trap Nets
around these parts, to add to all the holding pens and turtle traps around the Togian Islands. The locals are supplied the bombs and cyanide (usually of Chinese Production) by mostly Chinese descendants as well as from the Asian foreign operators who pick up the living and dead catches. The tourist asked" how about the law?" The reply, "The law gets paid more to turn a blind eye, that's more than their salaries pay! They in fact are just bystanders! To stop this would require lots of power, stronger policies supported with stiff penalties to those who pillage and profit from these illegal actions.It was generally agreed that the relative value of energy and costs spent on preventing and vigorously pursuing and prosecuting offenders of such lawbreaking would easily pay for itself in stiff fines and penalties at the current rate or state of lawbreaking. Even further, a portion of the money gained from
Trawl Fishing and Dynamite fishing on Coral Reefs, has destroyed at-least 60% of Indonesia's Coral Reefs and life forms. Here a group of various fish with a pile of 10 juvenile Spotted Rays are victims
fines and penalties could to go back into the local communities to support people and programs to discourage and prevent further destruction plus enforce conservation efforts through positive reinforcement. It would be up to the government of Jakarta to make these sweeping reforms and vigorously enforce the laws. Two weeks earlier some tourists while seeking new dive/snorkel sites along the Tangkoko Reserve to the Lembeh Strait, accidentally discovered huge structures of draw and trap nets. These nets extending to the sea floor blocking and trapping anything swimming along the coast (more details in Section on Illegal Fishing Practices). What appeared to be strategically placed nets along the migrating zones and paths of sea mammals, large pelagic fish , to include manta rays and whale sharks. It was found the operation existed since March 96 and had taken, and slaughtered thousands of mammals and large fish, plus an estimated millions of smaller pelagic fish. It was also discovered that the company was a joint venture involving Taiwanese partners and influential passive Indonesia shareholders. This company was operating up and above the law with very doctored and questionable licenses obtained by the influential passive partners in Jakarta and despite their huge hauls and all the pillage
The normal mature size of the Blue Spotted Ray, its family following also taken. A fish not normally on the human Menu, however not protected from pillage
inflicted the company still reported losses. To date, they have yet to be held accountable for the damages committed to the ecosystem and the local population. More of these nets are known to exists in other parts of Indonesia, thus also raping the coastal migrating mammals and fish. What will happen when there exits such "walls of death" all along the whole coastline? Currently there exist hundreds of stationary coastal fringe Draw Nets along the coastal capital city of Unjung Pandang which in there mere existence already contradict national and international laws, not to mention the damage inflicted to Nature! How long will the damage continue before it becomes beyond recovery?? To Conclude All these various forms of fishing are illegal in most countries including Indonesia in accordance to UN Charter of Fishing and Environmental Protection rules and international laws and agreements. The reef bombing and cyanide destruction are obvious forms of destruction and violations of laws that require the use of solid detectable materials. Because such materials are easier to detect, these forms of destruction should be easiest to control and effectively eradicated through better control of the production and distribution of the deadly materials. Thus accountability of producers and suppliers is essential to reduce and stop such forms of illegal fishing. Extremely high penalties should be levied against those who violate such laws especially the supplier and the of-course the user. The legality of the easily detectable and visible holding pens, stationary coastal draw and trap nets normally is a matter of the local authorities interpretation of national laws that normally deem these operations illegal when investigated. Often the flip side is true in which permits are granted by uninformed and corrupt national government officials contradicting local authorities of the area targeted. Regardless of who is guilty of illegal actions, everyone must be held responsible and accountable for their actions
The total pillage of the Oceans includes most clams, particularly the Giant Clams. Here are some weighing up to 40 Kg, along with bags of Nautilus's. The dealers trade unhindered by officials despite protection laws
and heavy penalties must be levied to stop these otherwise illegal forms of fishing from continuing to destroy the life source of the coastal layman. Without doubt, the Hugh Draw and Trap Nets mentioned earlier should be outright internationally banned . Coastal trapping of any kind must be outlawed to sustain fish stocks, coral reef life, and to protect for a healthy coral marine life ecosystem. One can clearly read from the data of this six week experience(only around parts of Sulawesi ), that at the current rate and combined methods of destruction the Indonesian Archipelago are numbered! Further, Some open-sea trawlers and fishing boats that are over fishing their quotas using Indonesian flags permits through joint venture fronts, must be better monitored to outright controlled by Indonesian authorities, who should be on board and also be held accountable for monitoring the catch -- a small cost to prevent over fishing. Also the number of so-called fishing joint ventures should be reduced, limited, to outright banned in a country in which 60% of its total population living along coastlines and waterways depend on fishing and fish consumption and products as their primary means of survival . Commercial fishing could in fact be exclusively done by Indonesia's own fishing fleets, without foreign exploitation. High tech satellite fishing could be regulated as mentioned earlier or totally banned to allow fairness to the local Traditional Indonesian fishing fleets. During 1998 new commercial fishing contracts were granted by certain Indonesian officials to various countries and companies, the most notable countries being Thailand and Japan. In the first example, the loosely and irresponsibly graphed contracts will allow Thailand to continue to fish, however in Indonesian waters as they have already over fished their own waters and they continue to do so. This is easily evidenced by looking toward the horizon of the sea line anytime anywhere in Thailand at darkness. One can expect to see lights not darkness any given night except very stormy nights. This Over fishing and exploitation of the waterways has brought no wisdom rather greed and now Indonesian waters have been targeted. In the case of Japan, one of Indonesians major trading partners and lenders, in its obsession of controlling the rights to access and market certain nationally desired Species of Fish (which includes many), most notably the Blue Fin Tuna. The 1998 agreement effectively allows the Japanese to proceed to fish in the Indonesian Archipelago for the Blue Fin population. The damage their fleets will inflict to the Juvenile Blue Fin as all other populations of fish which begin their seasonal migration and life chain in the SE Asian Archipelago will be devastating. By catch and otherwise economically unfeasible fish not in line to the high Japanese standards are simply killed and discarded or used as bate, this is estimated to be more than 60% of total catch if not more, when considering the unique diversity and abundance of fish life found in this Archipelago. Such contracts which affect the survival of species and the sustainability of life forms that are important to Humans and many life forms should require more than some greed stricken opportunists and ignorant and often corrupt officials. Such agreements and irresponsible deals prove the need of an International Commission, to include responsible environmentalists to oversee and prevent such deals. International aid and cooperation is needed to help curb illegal fishing and regulate High tech fishing to stop exploitation of natural resources. Due to the uniqueness and complexity of these issues, and the vastness and diversities of Indonesia and the Archipelago, an extensive amount of energy and time by all players is needed to control such violations. Please help us to make aware to the government of Indonesia that we care for and love her country, people, and archipelago so much that we genuinely would like to help stop the pillage and exploitation of their hospitality and natural resources. We request they allow foreign countries and caring environmental agencies to assist them with aid and services to stop these gross environmental violations from continuing once and forever. The consequences of these violations can and do have long lasting detrimental effects on Indonesia and eventually the whole world. We all must eventually offer our support to level, extinguish, and alleviate these injustices to guarantee the once magnificent archipelago and the surrounding population a healthy and promising future!

Sulawesi, Indenosia

Celebes or Sulawesi, island of eastern Indonesia, one of the larger islands of the Malay Archipelago, situated east of Borneo and west of the Moluccas. It consists mainly of four peninsulas separated by deep gulfs, with two of the peninsulas extending southward and two northeastward. This singular conformation gives the island a coastline of about 5630 km (about 3500 mi). The surface reaches one of its highest elevations in Mount Lompobatang, an extinct volcano in the southern part of the island 2871 m (9419 ft) high. A number of active volcanoes are also found in the eastern end of the northern peninsula, but most of the volcanoes have reached the latent stage. The largest river is the Sadang, which is navigable by small boats.

The climate is tropical, but somewhat modified by the elevation and the proximity of the sea. Among the animals peculiar to the island are the tailless baboon; the babirusa, with upper canines curved backward and nearly touching the forehead; the marsupial cuscus; and the sapiutan or wild cow. The forests include oak, teak, palm, cedar, upas trees, and bamboo. Cloves, nutmeg, spices, tropical fruits, corn, rice, tobacco, and sugar are raised. The coffee crop is not large, but is of superior quality. The minerals include gold, copper, tin, sulfur, salt, and diamonds and other precious stones. Among the chief items of trade are coffee, spices, copra, coconuts, and trepang, an edible sea slug.

The Portuguese first sighted and named the island in 1512, but from about 1607 the Dutch gradually obtained supremacy, although it was not until well into the 19th century that every district was under their control. Under the Dutch the island formed an important province of the Netherlands East Indies, consisting of the Celebes government in the southern part of the island and the Manado residency in the north. The capital of the Celebes government and chief port of the island was Makassar (now Ujung Pandang), situated on Makassar Peninsula, on the Strait of Makassar. The seat of the residency was in Manado, at the end of the Manado Peninsula on the Celebes Sea. During World War II, the Japanese held the island from 1942 until 1945. In 1946 Celebes Island was included in the autonomous state of East Indonesia, a part of the new United States of Indonesia (now Republic of Indonesia). Area, about 189,070 sq km (about 73,000 sq mi), population (1990) 12,522,000.

Illegal Trap-Net Fishing

A short chronology

February 1996, huge trap net constructions are erected along the northeast tip of Sulawesi, north of the funnel at the Lembeh Straits, along the Tangkoko Nature Reserve. A joint venture project of a Taiwanese Fishing & Sea food company, and high ranking Indonesian military & ex-military officers (including the ex-head of the secret service).

April 3,1997, an American tourist, Robin Marinos accidentally stumbles upon the nets and films the hauling of the nets. Films the killing of a Whale shark and other related material.For 5 weeks the tourist became activist, constantly campaigning in North Sulawesi to permanently remove the killer nets after investigating the operation and discovering the nets are along a migratory path and the company was operating outside of international and local laws.Using all the possible avenues available, with the help of the many local allies, the activist brings local public national and international attention to the issue and the detrimental consequences of such nets operating unabated.

Beginning May 1997, at the peak of a sabotage campaign, which included several life threatening situations, a timely invitation to an important conference in Singapore yields results. The Indonesian government orders the removal of the nets.

May 9, 1997, a government envoy promises permanent removal of the nets in a secret meeting.The activist receives an award from the Lembeh Preservation Society, a strong ally during the campaign. Also is a special guest speaker at the ADEC Conference, and top exhibitor at the conservation exhibition, thus publicly and internationally exposing and denouncing the use of any such trap nets.

September, 1997, the Indonesian government reneges on its promises, bowing to corruption and ignoring laws thus allowing the trap net operation to reopen, this time with security measures.Soon thereafter a major campaign is re-ignited that includes many previous allies as well as new ones, using the information and footage of the previous campaign to smash the company and its government allies. CNBC's investigation and consequent continuous broadcasting of this information had strong impact.

November 1997, the national government openly denounces such fishing practices and expels the Taiwanese company from Indonesia.A legal investigation was started, but was put on hold due to the monetary crisis.The initiative started by Robin Marinos and the Lembeh Strait Society to convert the North Lembeh Strait area reaching to the North east border of Manado to form a National Marine Sanctuary is being considered. At present it is on hold due to other governmental priorities. The drive to protect this pristine area will continue until the desired results are achieved.

"Walls of Death"

The two set of nets are about 3 km apart 20 to 30 meters from the coastline of the Tangkoko Nature Reserve. The nets believed to be strategically placed on the migrating path of sea mammals and large pelagic fish, extend approximately 400 meters toward drop-off , between 15 to 35 meters from
sea level to ocean floor. The draw nets lead to the trap nets, built as a maze, leading to the final trap, a floor net on floats (except at the opening mouth), one cm square nylon "TIGER Nets", approximately 50 by 60 meters wide, 30 to 35 meters deep at this point.

The boat enters the maze of trap nets from the far side (north side), then drives southward scaring roaming fish toward and into the final floor "Tiger" trap net, eventually lifting and hauling the net, slaughtering all its contents. The nets took five weeks to construct and were completed March 1996."


On April 3, 1997, two tourists accidentally witness the slaughter of a WHALE SHARK while on way with local boatman to snorkel in Lembeh Strait. The two eventually free a large Turtle also caught in the nets. All events were videotaped and photographed.

UPDATE MAY 15, 1997

As of May 15, 1997 it was witnessed that the nets themselves had been removed leaving behind their concrete mooring structures. By early June the structures had been rendered useless presumably by "local fishermen" and others.

A Justice Department investigation is believed to be underway (but this has not been substantiated as of yet, June 10, 1997).

A group of local landowners, businessmen and concerned residents have formed the LEMBEH STRAITS SOCIETY -- Aimed at designating the entire NE Area of Sulawesi, from Tankoko Reserve to Bunaken Reserve a protected area with restricted fishing rights. High government officials in Jakarta are believed to support this plan and have expressed concern over the reported incidents of late.

Trap-Net Fishing / Death of whale shark

The Whale Shark, is the common name for the largest known fish, native to tropical seas around the world. The whale shark may attain a length of more than 15 m (more than 50 ft) and weigh more than 18 metric tons. Deep blue above and white below, it is darker in color than most sharks, but its body is marked with white spots and vertical lines; on its head and back are several broad, longitudinal ridges. The animal has a wide, flattened snout with the mouth at the front, not below, and its jaws hold numerous small teeth. The gill openings are exceptionally large. The whale shark feeds on small fishes and plankton strained out of the seawater by its long gill rakers; it is harmless to humans. Young whale sharks hatch from fertilized eggs inside the body of the female and are then born alive to the outside.

Scientific classification: The whale shark makes up the family Rhincodontidae of the order Lamniformes. It is classified as Rhincodon typus.

On April 3, 1997, two tourists accidentally witness the slaughter of a WHALE SHARK while on way with local boatman to snorkel in Lembeh Strait. The two eventually free a large Turtle also caught in the nets. All events were videotaped and photographed.

The Whale Shark was hoisted onto the side of the boat.

A fisherman then enters the net to kill the Whale Shark

He slashes at the Whale Shark
to kill it. A terrified large Sea Turtle trapped in the bloodied nets gasping for air was later rescued by environmentalists Mike and Robin.

The Whale Shark is killed. A Harmless Fish, we call for support to place it under the category of Highly Endangered Species, not 'Data Deficient' as currently categorized under CITIES.

Preparations are made to haul pieces of the Whale shark on board. Meanwhile activists enter the bloodied nets to free a Sea Turtle and film the entire one hour slaughter.

A fisherman stands in the Tiger nets astonished by the Whale Shark Head

Besides the Whale Shark, hundreds the Pelagic fish are caught daily, all and any sizes moving along the Lembay Straits. Total populations of juvenile fish were taken

The blubbery internal tract of the Whale Shark, typical of plankton feeders

A Green Turtle trapped in nets, rescued and freed by Activists, now members of Earth Advocates