Voices from the Coast amidst the Pandemic

Bali, 24 February 2021 – Almost a year has passed since COVID-19 was declared in Indonesia. All aspects of life are affected, demanding that everyone adapt to new normal situations. The Indonesian fishing industry is one of the worst affected, the lives of fishermen have changed drastically, including fishermen on the island of Bali. Yayasan Konservasi Alam Nusantara (YKAN) in collaboration with Photovoices International (PVI) supports a number of fishermen and women working in the fishing industry in Les and Pemaron Villages, Buleleng Regency, North Bali, documenting their lives through Photovoices activities which took place during October 2020 -January 2021. Cameras in hand, they capture everyday life during the pandemic.

Since October 2020, 11 Photovoices program participants consisting of fishermen who are members of the CODRS (Crew Operated Data Recording System) program or fisheries data recording system, along with their wives and acquaintances have been facilitated to capture their daily moments and their environment. Through a learning process facilitated by PVI and YKAN, a collection of photos and stories of the impact of COVID-19 on the lives of fishermen and women working in the fisheries sector were obtained.

“These photos were taken by the Photovoices program participants to illustrate their daily lives and the problems they face, especially during this pandemic. Every week they gather to critically discuss these problems, as well as solutions to solve them, either by themselves or with the help of policy makers, “said Tri Soekirman, Executive Director of Photovoices International.

Kadek Agus Cahyadi, one of the Photovoices participant, took a photo at Penimbangan Beach, Dauh Margi, Pemaron Village. Rows of boats are placed at the shoreline. Before the pandemic, after fishing trips, these boats were used to take visitors to watch dolphins. “In a day, these fishing boats sometimes get 2 trips to take guests go dolphin watching. Penimbangan Beach is busy, the people’s income is very good. Food stalls, rice jinggo sellers, coffee shops, stalls, and street vendors constantly serve guests who buy their items. Now, the fishing boats are only parked on the beach, some of which are even brought ashore, because there is no hope that guests will come, ”he said.

“Since the pandemic, the small-scale fishing industry in Indonesia has faced great pressure. The selling price of large tuna has declined sharply. Before the pandemic, it was around Rp. 30,000-35,000 per kilogram, when the pandemic happened, it dropped dramatically to Rp. 15,000-18,000 per kilogram. However, now it has improved at a price of Rp. 25,000 per kilogram. Meanwhile, the price of juvenile tuna (not yet spawned) tends to be stable at Rp. 18,000-23,000 per kilogram, ”explained Peter Mous, YKAN’s Fisheries Program Director.

Many requests from fish buyers were canceled, resulting many fishing boat owners to stop operating, even selling their boats to make a living. This forces fishermen and women in the fisheries sector to adapt to doing work outside their daily livelihoods. Some fishermen’s wives, for example, look for additional sources of income by being creative by selling processed fish food, such as satay and others online endeavors.

With the impact of reduced income from fisheries and tourism, women has to search for ways to continue in supporting their families. As illustrated by the photo of Ketut Milantini, from the Les village. She took a picture of a fish laborer named Luh Parse (35 years old), who is also a member of the group of 15 members of the group of women fish lifters “Sekar Sari”. The fish lifters are usually tasked to wait for the boat carrying the unloaded fish to the beach of Penyumbahan Hamlet (Banjar), Les Village. The fishermen brought unloaded fish to the women fish lifters to be weighed. After completing their tasks, the women fish lifters will gather at the collectors’ kiosks to receive Rp. 50,000 per person, as well as a few fish to take and cook at home. The wage from lifting fish can help with of the women of the Sekar Sari group’s family expenses, even only a little.

Participants from Les village presented their photos and stories to the Les Village Head. On that occasion, they also expressed their hope of getting assistance with FAD (Fish Aggregating Devices) facilities and outboard engines, assistance in improving the economy of fishing families by raising livestock, and increasing the number of fishermen families who received social assistance due to COVID-19 – so that there are more than 7 families. The village head of Les responded positively, even though the hopes of the participants could be realized in the 2022 Fiscal Year. It is hoped that communications with the village head continues. Meanwhile, for Pemaron Village, the presentation to the village head has not been done yet because the village is still in a state of strict social restrictions (lockdown).

As communities living at the coasts, supporting each other can be a strategy for fishermen to cope and adapt during these difficult times. The pandemic has marked a momentum to remind the importance of government roles in ensuring the sustainability of its people, through the certainty of knowledge and information related to the COVID-19 pandemic, multisectoral policy packages in the health and non-health sectors, and social and institutional support, particularly for vulnerable groups such as fishermen.