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Alternative Livelihoods:

Pelagic Fisheries


Whereas the coral reefs in and around Komodo National Park are threatened by destructive fishing practices and over exploitation, the open waters around the park still offer an opportunity to develop a sustainable fishery of pelagic fish species. The pelagic fisheries project aims to result in income levels competitive to other non-destructive small-scale fisheries in coastal areas.  It also hopes to serve as a vehicle for carriers of the conservation message in awareness and constituency building programs.

Presently, the pelagic fisheries in and around Komodo National Park are focused on Loliginidae or squid (cumi cumi), which are caught by floating lift nets (bagan perahu). This fishery also yields anchovies (Engraulidae, mainly Stolephorus spp.) and small clupeids (Clupeidae, mainly Sprateloides spp.). The continuation and protection of this traditional lift net fishery is essential as the major economic alternative for local fishing communities.

A variety of pelagic fish species, with high prices on remote markets, are promising for development. These include Spanish mackerel, yellowfin tuna and skipjack. Smaller species, such as anchovies (teri), sardines (lemuru, tembang), sprats, Indian mackerels (kembung) and scads (layang, selar), may become important either for direct consumption or as feed source for aquaculture enterprises.  

To enhance the productivity of the area Fish Aggregating Devices (FAD), rafts anchored in the deep water (1000-2000m depth) that attract pelagic fish from the surrounding areas,  were installed.  However, diversification of fishing methods, gear types (such as artificial and natural trolling lines) and target species is also necessary. Efficient infrastructure for preservation, transport and post-harvest processing needs to be developed in the area outside the Park. In addition, both fishermen and consumers need to be educated on the importance of maintaining product quality.

At present the pelagic fisheries development program together with local fish traders, fishermen and expert contractors, is working to enhance the establishment of the fisheries, and improve post harvest practices, fish processing techniques and marketing of large pelagic fish.  The program includes a training program for fishermen where participants and their moneylenders (local traders) sign an agreement to refrain from destructive fishing practices in the future. Fishermen from different areas in Indonesia have been hired to teach a variety of skills.

The training program for fishing's post-harvest component covers a variety of techniques from fish handling on the boats to fish processing on shore. Although a large portion of the catch is destined for sale as a fresh chilled product, there is also considerable potential for the production of other products. The program has been training local fishing communities, including many women, to prepare these products. Post-harvest techniques that have been included in the training program include: pengasinan (dried salted fish), pindang (salt boiled fish), ikan kayu (katsuobushi), dendeng (spiced dried fish), and ikan abon (a fish-based product that is used as a spice). A variety of basic processing tools were supplied. By introducing these 'new' high-quality products, fishing communities have a better chance of increasing their income through pelagic fisheries


Though local communities mostly use the waters in the Komodo area as a fishing ground, the area also offers excellent opportunity for the culture of valuable aquatic organisms, such as seaweed and fish.  Presently, PKA and TNC are implementing a fish culture project in the Komodo area.  The project aims to establish an enterprise that supplies the life reef fish trade with live grouper and other commercially important fish species.  The purpose of the project is two fold.  Firstly, the fish culture enterprise offers an alternative livelihood for fisherman in and around the park.  Secondly, the development of full circle aquaculture of high quality food fish will provide an alternative to wild capture with cyanide for the live reef fish trade.  This move will contribute to the market transformation of the live reef fish trade from unsustainable capture base to sustainable culture based.

Mariculture requires a great deal of technical training, especially when including reproduction and rearing of larvae. The expertise for on-farm reproduction of marine animals is presently not available in the Park area, except perhaps at a single pearl oyster company, which is operating near Labuan Bajo. 

Local hatcheries outside the Park can supply fingerlings for grow-out to community-based grow-out enterprises, which are low-tech and low-investment activities and are therefore ideal alternative livelihoods for local communities (which, for the most part, already have the experience of raising wild-caught fish in sea cages). The hatcheries themselves are moderate- to high-tech and relatively high investment activities. A few good examples need to be established, but more investment is needed before this practice can take off on a larger scale. In the long term a considerable part of the market could be supplied with high quality food fish from full-circle aquaculture.  The Komodo area is ideal for grow-out in terms of production costs, environmental factors and space.  A thriving mariculture industry will increase the standard of living for the villagers in the vicinity in a sustainable manner.

The program should focus on sea-bass (Lates calcarifer) to start, a highly prized food fish for which economic feasibility of aquaculture has already been proven throughout south-east Asia and Australia. The program will also work with several species of grouper, such as the estuary grouper and the tiger grouper, which are successfully cultured in Taiwan and in a few other countries. Try-outs will also be done with mouse grouper, which is the most highly prized grouper in the live reef fish trade, and which has been successfully reproduced and raised by the Gondol Research Center for Coastal Fisheries in Bali. All the above species occur naturally in the Komodo area and brood-stock has already been secured. With the expertise and practical experience of  partners, the hatchery should be well managed and show the feasibility of fingerling production for one or more species within three years. The hatchery will also serve as a training ground for local staff.

Grow-out of fingerlings in the Komodo area are expected to be much cheaper than in many other areas due to ideal environmental circumstances, low cost of labor, and the large and cheap supply of small clupeid fishes which are ideal as feed for the cultured species. A pilot survey was conducted in areas surrounding Komodo National Parks by mariculture experts in November 1996. The pilot study revealed that the area is extremely suitable for mariculture development. Constraints are mainly expected in the field of logistics.

Seaweed production is a potentially rewarding activity for fishermen in the Komodo area. Many potential participants have already indicated their interest in seaweed culture when they were interviewed in 1997. Some communities have already requested permits for seaweed culture from the Park authorities and are already engaged in rudimentary operations.

A pilot study and assessment on the seaweed- and seagrass-resources in the Komodo area carried out by The Nature Conservancy in May 1988 identified 8 seagrass species and 43 seaweeds. In general, the plant habitats were relatively healthy and showed very high diversities. This pilot study revealed that some use of seaweed resources was already taking place, but not in an efficient sustainable manner. The pilot study concluded that there is a high potential for the development of seaweed- and seagrass-based economic activities.

A training program will be given to local fishermen, teaching them the basic skills of sustainable seaweed farming. Expert fishermen and seaweed farmers (e.g., from Bali and Lombok) will be hired to teach local villagers a variety of skills, and expert consultants (e.g., from the Philippines) will be contracted to manage the program.  

This site is maintained by the Directorate General for Nature Protection and Conservation (PHKA) and The Nature Conservancy, Coastal & Marine Program - Indonesia.