Artisanal fishermen help patrol Aceh waters

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- We currently have a pilot project where we have given shark boat captains personal locator beacons, binoculars, and cameras; we have also uploaded EEZ boundaries into their GPS units. These satellite locator beacons have recently become available through the consumer market. They are relatively inexpensive and operate in real time, updating the boats current location on the internet every ten to fifteen minutes. The concept we are testing in this pilot is to ‘loan’ these personal satellite beacons to shark boat captains through the traditional fishing authority, the Panglima Laot.

These units have three different buttons on them, we have shown the captains how to turn the unit on and off, they are to press the second button if they need immediate help and the third button if they see illegal fishing. If possible, the captain will then take a picture (this is sometimes dangerous because boats illegally fishing will sometimes shoot at local fishers in order intimidate them and make them keep their distance).

We have found in discussions with the captains that even if he has a radio and it is near enough to shore to be heard, and someone within range happens to be listening, the fishermen will not report illegal fishing for fear that they will be overheard on the radio. In addition, the culture of Aceh after thirty years of conflict is such that one does not turn in others to the government.

The fishermen will not allow the government to monitor where they go (For example: secret fishing grounds, or fear of punishment should they go into another country’s waters). However, in the Acehnese social structure, the Panglima Laot has the responsibility to organize rescues, and so the fishing boat captains trust the Panglima Laot to monitor their locations.

Upon return to port, the captain will come to the Panglima Laot office, download pictures, get new batteries for satellite transmitter and report catch; sizes and species.

The benefits to the fishermen are:

  • If their boat is in trouble, the captain now has a way to call for help.
  • If they are overdue, the crew’s family can come into the Panglima Laot office to see where they are and that they are OK.
  • Panglima Laot can see if they are pulled into a foreign port, the crew has probably been arrested for illegal fishing, and Panglima Loat can contact the embassy.

    The benefits to the conservationist are:

  • Combating illegal fishing
  • Ability to identify where the shark fishers are fishing and what they are catching.
  • Initiate a positive relationship so that when shark management plans are implemented fishermen will already know and trust the conservation teams.

    The benefits to government:

  • Saves time, fuel, money, boats. Increases surveillance at very little cost
  • Starts to build relationship so that when shark management plans are implemented, a relationship already exists with those fishermen that will need to participate.

    See also Satellite tracking of FADs, Thai fishing boat caught fishing just 30 miles off the West coast of Aceh