Wednesday, the 4th October 2018, was a big day for the BCF Lestari community group of Bone Baru, a small village on Banggai Island. A fishers’ group who used to collect Banggai Cardinalfish (BCF)(Pterapogon kauderni) for a living, is now preparing to send their first shipment of captive-bred BCF to Denpasar, Bali, and then to the Maidenhead Aquatics, UK retail shops. The group has received support from the Ministry office of Marine Affairs and Fisheries (MMAF) to build a small, modest aquaculture facility. The purpose of this government aid is to try to help the villagers breed BCF to reduce the pressure of collection from their natural habitats. The MMAF requested LINI to assist in the development of the community aquaculture effort in Bone Baru, because LINI has had a long relationship with the fishers of Banggai, and has successfully breed BCF at the LINI Aquaculture and Training Centre (LATC) in North Bali. The members of the BCF Lestari community group lent a hand in constructing the facility. The village of Bone Baru contributed a piece of land where the facility was built and has given the community group the right to use the land.
Although LINI has run an aquaculture facility in North Bali, we faced big challenges in assisting the Bone Baru aquaculture community, these being the limited human resources capacity of the local people and the unreliability of the electricity supply. Bone Baru used to be the trade hub for BCF since the mid-1990s and members of BCF Lestari were BCF collectors and traders. As collectors, they just needed to collect the fish and sell them on the same day on which the fish had been collected. Therefore there were no problems of holding the fish, and the fishers also received cash payments on the same day as the sales. In contrast, when breeding the BCF in the aquaculture facility, they need to wait for toil the fish grow, and nurture them until they are of a saleable size. Changing the mindset of the community from being fish collectors to becoming fish farmers, is a big challenge!
With the funding received from the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund, LINI has been able to train and mentor the members of BCF Lestari to run the aquaculture facility. Two of community members being trained are women. In March this year, the first BCF babies were produced in the facility. In May 2018, Ibu Susi, the Minister of the MMAF, visited Bone Baru and witnessed the breeding success of the community for herself, which was a huge inspiration and honour for the villagers. During May 2018, over 1000 BCF babies were produced, and a further 400 were born in July.
The second challenge in running the aquaculture facility has been the very limited and unreliable electricity supply, as is still common in remote areas. Complete power blackouts have recently been frequent, and, because the facility relies on a constant electricity supply to run the water pumps and lights, these power cuts threaten the well-being of the fish. Therefore, the facility urgently needs an alternative source of energy, the best option being from solar panels. In addition, electricity storage capacity in the form of batteries (charged by day by the solar panels) would ensure a continuous supply of power during the night.
The BCF Lestari community group now has the knowledge and skills to run the aquaculture facility, and produce BCF to offer to the aquarium trade, instead of collecting them from the wild. However, a major obstacle for them is the intermittent electricity supply, which can potentially cause the loss of the BCF stocks that the community has worked so hard to produce. Our hope is that they can receive help in the form of donations for the purchase of solar panels and storage batteries.
For LINI, the success of the Bone Baru community to run their aquaculture facility is a huge achievement, because LINI’s work in developing a community-based aquaculture facility in Bali has been now replicated in a more remote area. LINI believes that community-based nature conservation efforts are the key to successful biodiversity conservation here in Indonesia, and the Bone Baru experience is a working example of what can be achieved. And although this is only the start, it is the beginning of new hope.
Footnote: At the time of writing, the aftermath of the catastrophic earthquake and tsunami that hit Sulawesi further north is still being felt, but fortunately the Banggai Islands were far enough away from the epicenter to only experience the shaking from the main quake and aftershocks. Thankfully, although the facility experienced a lack of electricity for an extended period, no buildings in the aquaculture facility were damaged, and no people were hurt.
“The Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund is a joint initiative of l’Agence Française de Développement, Conservation International, the European Union, the Global Environment Facility, the Government of Japan, the MacArthur Foundation and the World Bank. A fundamental goal is to ensure civil society is engaged in biodiversity conservation.”