Amir Mukadar sat in the corner of Juanga Village Office. People greeted him with big smiles and jokes in the Maluku way. A leader of a POKMASWAS (Community-based Surveillance Group) since 2014, Amir is always enthusiastic at marine conservation awareness meetings.
Amir is an ordinary man. A porter at Daruba Port, Morotai Island, North Maluku Province, he earns just Rp.500.000/ month and struggles to support his family.
Amir used to practice destructive fishing. He doesn’t know for how many years he used bombs and cyanide for fishing. Eventually, he realized blast fishing damaged the coastal community’s way of life that is heavily dependent on marine resources. Amir stopped using bombs and cyanide and became an environmental watchdog.
“Now, it is different. After I finish work in Daruba Port, I immediately take my boat then circle the Morotai waters. I want to protect the sea from destructive fishing.”
His main target is the Tanjung Dehegila region and Mitita Island, where local and migrant fishers use bombing and poisoning to catch fish. One day, Kolorai fishers came to Mitita Island. Amir realized they planned to use potassium cyanide to anesthetize fish. He approached and introduced himself as a POKMASWAS leader, warning the fishers not to use potassium. Amir understands that POKMASWAS members mustn’t act like law enforcement officers. He can’t arrest fishers if they use potassium, but he can report them to the local authorities.
Amir recalls, “I said: ‘If I find this again, I will report to the local authorities.’ Later, I realized that the fishers didn’t stop using potassium, so I reported them to the local Marine and Fisheries Office to stop this practice.”
Amir didn’t have a cell phone, so he reported in person what he’d witnessed, with bamboo materials used in the violation as evidence. Syafruddin Banyo, Head of Marine Spatial Planning at the Marine and Fisheries Office Morotai, recognizes and appreciates Amir’s dedication: “I respect Amir, even with limited documentation and communication aids, he still regularly reports incidents he encounters on patrol.”
Amir has become a driving force for marine conservation in Morotai — he is ‘The Sea Warrior from Juanga Village.’ The USAID SEA Project, through partner WCS, invited Amir to become a SEA Champion, so he could encourage behavior change and widen his message on the importance of marine conservation for livelihoods and food security across the region.
Every Friday, Amir delivers conservation messages to the Juanga community and encourages them to do beach clean-ups. In the ‘Sea Warrior’s’ words:
“Don’t throw your garbage to the sea, let’s keep our beach clean and our seas full of fish.”