'Dynamite Fishing' Kills Indonesian Reefs (And Surf)

Fishermen with bombs are destroying precious reef breaks—and the ecosystems they support—in the Mentawai Islands of Indonesia, several surf news outlets reported in recent weeks.

The illegal practice of tossing "Coke bottle bomb," as they were described by Surfline.com yesterday, came to the renewed attention of surfers and environmentalists worldwide after a Change.org petition and accompanying YouTube video were posted, depicting one pair of alleged malefactors blitzing the water beneath them with hand-lobbed explosives.

One area surf resort owner painted a dire picture for Driftsurfing.eu:

For over a month now, [famed surf spot] the Playgrounds area has had at least three boats bombing our reefs every day. When the weather is good, they can do more than five cycles of bombing and collecting the dead fish in a day. Each cycle is between five to eight bombs. Calculating a low average, we estimate more than 2,250 bombs have been exploded in our 15-mile radius area."

The fragile reef ecosystems are being pummeled by the bombs, which leave 10-foot craters and kill every living thing within the blast radius, including one resort's beloved dugong, reported Surfermag.com.

The fishermen, who reportedly hail from commercial outfits on nearby Sumatra, are damaging not only the reefs themselves, which are a draw for vacationing snorkelers and surfers, but valuable habitat for replenishing fish stock—a blow to the legitimate fishing economy as well.

Although so-called dynamite fishing is banned in Indonesia, Surfline reports that the Mentawai authorities currently lack the resources to adequately patrol their waters.