Trash washed ashore in Bau-Bau

Trash in the sea

One evening on the crossing to Tarasu we talked about all the refuse in the sea and elsewhere. It’s common practice here in Indonesia to jettison trash without a second thought – as well as any other items one no longer needs. In their cars, on busses, trains, ships – whatever’s no longer needed does not get deposited in the nearest wastebin, but for convenience simply gets thrown out the window. The sea, it seems, is another perfect dumping ground. Such thoughtless acts are inconceivable and barbaric in the eyes of denizens of Switzerland and Singapore, for example. However, a different wind blows on Yukri’s pinisi, which is equipped with four trash cans, and the sailors are forbidden from throwing any plastic, any glass bottles, paper, packaging, cigarette butts or whatever into the sea.

Two of the crew, Jon and Simon, were fishermen till signing on to the pinisi six months ago. They recount their hardships trying to eke out a living and feed their families on what they made from fishing. What is most striking about their story is that plastic bags and PET bottles adrift on the surface of the water are mistaken by whole schools of small fish for big fish. In fear of what they believe is a looming threat, the little fish migrate out to open sea, where they get scooped up by the big fishing fleets that are fishing the seas dry on an industrial scale. It’s too dangerous for fishermen to venture too far out into sea in their small perahus. So they had to give up their trade and are now trying their luck as sailors.

It’s appalling, says the pensive Captain Yukri, what a chain reaction can be triggered by plastic thrown senselessly into the water. Not to mention the tiny plastic particles drifting across the sea and making their insidious way via fish into the food chain!