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After Indonesian independence
By Chozin Muhammad

After Indonesian independence in 1945, the practice of blast fishing declined due to a shortage of dynamite. Colonial soldiers were no longer present to provide the supply of bombs. In addition, the demand to fish Japanese soldiers disappeared. Fishing was only practiced for subsistence. The market was not growing extensively because Indonesia was in the early stages of independence.

However, in the 1950s, a splinter of the national army (TNI) led by Abdul Kahar Muzakkar rebelled against the central government during Sukarno administration. Kahar Muzakkar rebellion organized soldiers in rural areas, faraway from the main city of Makassar. Some islands in the Spermonde archipelago also became bases for his followers, one of which was the island where the author did his research.

To support the war, the Kahar Muzakkar rebels carried out fishing using gun powder. They caught a large number of fish to sell in the market in Surabaya (in East Java). They used the money to buy weapons in Singapore. The rebellion was finally stopped when Kahar Muzakkar was captured by the National Army in 1965. After having acquired the skills and materials to do blast fishing, the fishermen began to adopt it for their own purpose.

Following the introduction of engine-powered boats in the 1960s, the practice of blast fishing became prevalent. With motor boats, the fishermen could reach more remote areas that are further offshore. Using explosives from ammunition shells left over from the World War II, fishermen started to operate the dynamite fishing at a larger scale within broader areas (Alimuddin 2004, p. 33; Poet-Soede, et.al. 1999). After this era, the coral reef started to be threatened by blast fishing activities.

In the 1970s, with a shortage of dynamite, fishermen started to explore the use of farming fertilizer. Fishermen from the Philippines introduced the use of fertilizer to fishermen in Spermonde (Alimuddin 2004, p. 34). The bomb materials are made from ammonium nitrate fertilizer and fuel oil; therefore, the bomb is called ANFO (Ammonium Nitrate-Fuel Oil). The fishermen put the ANFO into drinking bottle to make a bomb. To ignite the bomb, fishermen put a small detonator in the neck of the bottle connected with a waterproof wick. Almost all bomb materials including fertilizer, detonator, and wick are imported from foreign countries such as Malaysia, India, and Bangladesh.

The fertilizer used for bomb (ammonium nitrate fertilizer) is different than the fertilizer that is commonly used for rice-field farms in Indonesia. Ammonium nitrate fertilizers are commonly used for palm oil plantation. After fishermen started to use ammonium nitrate for making bombs, the price rose and it has not been easily found anymore. It is now illegally imported from Malaysia. Therefore, fishermen cannot easily get the materials from the market. Fishermen can, however, get it from the black market. Smugglers import the material from Malaysia to Indonesia through border towns such as Tawaw in North Borneo.  

2011 Chozin Muhammad

In this section:

History of blast fishing:

Colonial Era
Contemporary practices

Also in this section :

Social Relationships on Balobaloang

Patron-client relationship in blast fishing groups
Life of a young juragang
Life of a sawi

Religious and cultural values of blast fishermen

The role of women in blast fishing

The relationship between blast fishermen and other fishermen




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