Like the majority of people in Madapolo village, South Halmahera, North Maluku, Sarno Lajiwa catches fish for his living. Using handline and traditional fishing boat, he sails on Bisa waters to catch tuna.
It was already 11 PM when he returned home after attending the fisher meeting in the village. Since July last year, Sarno was assigned as the Leader of Tuna Jaya Fisher Association (FA), one of four FAs established for implementing Fair Trade fishery standards. Sarno and the other 21 fishers from Tuna Jaya Association have been participating for Fair Trade Program implemented by MDPI under the USAID Sustainable Ecosystems Advanced (USAID SEA) Project.
“The artificial bait, knife, handline, and hook, all set. I am ready to go fishing next morning. I feel optimistic that I will get big catch tomorrow,” said Sarno after finished preparing for his fishing trip tomorrow.
He woke up at 5 AM in the next morning while his wife prepared food and drink that he would carry to keep him charged up during the fishing trip. His wife also helped him put ice into the box and place it inside the boat.
“The ice box is important to preserve the quality of catch. This is what I learned at the Fair Trade training. We were introduced with some practical tips on how to maintain fish quality. As our fish quality is better, the price is higher. In the past per kg tuna was sold 49,000 rupiah. Now we could get 55,000 per kg.”
Sarno headed to the sea, accompanied by the waves of hands of his wife and son. In Madapolo, fishers usually sail alone or with one or two crew members because the boat is small (around 5 meters length and 1.5 meter width). Getting to the fishing ground took him around 2 hours and then he looked for dolphins and birds to help guide him in finding the tuna location.
“Tuna often school with dolphins. They help guide us to find tuna. If we follow them, there will be a good chance of a successful catch,” Sarno exclaimed.
The traditional fishers in Bisa islands are used to “kite fishing technique” utilizing kite to mimic the behavior of flying fish. A small kite was attached to the line which pulls the artificial bait up and down softly. This process was done couple of times until it was time for a short break in the middle of the day. During the break time, he and other fishers gathered in their boats, had conversation and lunch together.
When fishing, fishers sometimes unintentionally caught sharks or turtles. Before being exposed to knowledge on Endangered, Threatened, and Protected (ETP) species during the Fair Trade training, fishers were not aware that those species should be protected.
“Now when we accidentally catch sharks or turtles, we release them to the sea. In the past, we did not know that they were protected species. Fishers used to keep them and sell them in the market.”
He continued fishing, dropped the line into the sea until he could feel it tugged. He started to wind the nylon line, while being extra careful not to hurt his hands. After more than an hour of struggle, Sarno was finally able to haul the fish into the boat. It was a successful day for Sarno. The tuna he caught weighed 60 kg.
(By Indah Rufiati & Masayu Vinanda)