Trip 3 to Lombok, back to Tanjung Luar Day 1, May 22nd 2013

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Things fall into place when you meet the face behind Aquatic Alliance, the Rays research and educational outreach guys from Lembongan Island whom I had been following on Facebook very closely for their awesome rays underwater shots, for a while now!

So before we got to meeting Aquatic Alliance’s Peter with Gili Ecotrust’s Delphine Robbe in Senggigi today, it was back to Tanjung Luar fish market again for me this morning after a five month hiatus. Many things seemed to have changed since then though. There was a new jetty built with kelong style extension floating platforms, the abattoirs with wide open spaces where the sharks were usually laid out, examined by traders and butchered had repainted walls and new abattoirs in the process of being built, the sharks were brought in a lot earlier and were much MUCH younger. The officially sign which said there was to be no killing of thresher sharks and dolphins, which had been put up and half ripped out when I first came in September last year and ¾ ripped when I saw in December again now left not even a trance of its previous existence.

We saw a total of 4 piles of sharks, all no bigger than 1.5metres long maximum.

The first pile had 5 baby sharks, I am guessing only about 1-3 years old including ray sharks, reef sharks and black tip sharks.

The next pile we saw was in the shed were the sharks were usually laid out, a total of 12 sharks maybe slightly older than the first pile, about juveniles up to 2 metres long and which included white tip, black tip and hammerhead sharks.

Just as we were photographing the second pile, a stack of about 15 baby sharks (what looked like leopard sharks to us but we couldn’t be sure), still writhing about were brought in and as they gasped for breath and struggled in vain to get out from the cluster I found it extremely hard to hold back on emotions.

The subsequent pile we saw was out beside the trucks were they were usually loaded up after sale. It consisted of about 12 juvenile sharks, slightly smaller then the second pile ones in the shed, which included about 6 hammerhead sharks and 2 other shark species I was not able to identify.

Agus shared about how the government has plans to build a new shark market at Labuhan Lombok near the harbour for boats to Sumbawa and I found tat a most unsettling piece of news instead.

We found out that during a “good” season month where many sharks can be caught thanks to strong currents and colder waters, the monthly wage for shark fishermen was: Rp20million

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for captain, Rp20million divided out among the rest of the crew of about 4-5 boatmen (who were usually badly treated with unfair wages and made to cough out amounts from their already lower wages to pay for maintenance of boat facilities and repairs. On bad season months, fishermen could be expected to take home nothing. So that’s the wages I have to match without exploiting the fishermen.

The silver lining for the day, perhaps, was that it was good to hear the fishermen sharing about having heard rumours about Singapore already banning import of shark fin soup and how they felt the impact in Hong Kong that less restaurants are importing so they resort to exporting the dried fins to Surabaya instead, fetching lower prices than before

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