We were fortunate to receive a grant from Global Green Grants to conduct an educational program in Indonesia about sharks.
We rented a small center used as “informational center,” where we were able to invite local people to come and learn about sharks and the marine ecosystem. There was a small library there open for anyone interested. Our team also stayed in this little house, allowing us to visit schools and fishermen’s villages all around the southeastern part of Lombok, to conduct educational visits and talks at the local schools. Our presentations included a “puppetshow” about sharks that toured the schools in Eastern Lombok along with educational leaflets, posters and stickers. These educational materials were distributed amongst the schools and in the fishermen’s villages amongst the fishermen families. The materials were printed in Jakarta and send to Lombok overland and by boat. We also had special signs printed which were placed in the two main fishermen’s villages where sharks are hunted.
A recycling workshop was held in the fishermen’s villages to explain to the local women about how to easily “turn trash into treasure,” making nice products like bags and baskets from waste plastics and also from natural items like rotan. A survey was conducted to suggest an alternative income for the local fishermen in the options for ecotourism in the area. For example, instead of killing sharks, offering dive trips to start diving with sharks in the wild.
We were further able to conduct a mangrove coastal cleanup. This directly benefitted the environment as the mangroves were filled with rubbish and waste, which the people living around it would throw there.
The Benefits of Education
The schoolchildren and fishermen’s families benefitted from the activities, especially the local fisherman’s women and the children. The survey trip with potential for developing ecotourism in the future is supposed to benefit the local fishermen, yet still needs to be researched more thoroughly before we can operate the ecotourism trips. But the main work has been conducted to allow an important next step in this development. The local dolphins have benefitted from this funding; since we started the campaign we have not observed any more dolphin killings. The dolphins were previously killed to use as shark bait.
Our project helped to improve the mentality and knowledge of local people in isolated areas in East Lombok about the importance of shark protection and protection of all marine life, as well as not littering in the ocean. Our project directly helped increase local awareness, and as local people participated with the program they were not only becoming more aware but also felt involved themselves and felt as part of the program on the importance to protect marine life.
Through the program, we managed to form a group of enthusiastic fishermen’s wives who will now start with recycling plastic waste, turning waste into useful products. It is the women who lead these activities. If properly managed, they will be able to gain an income from this recycling project and will become a great example for other families in the area.
Indonesian national media provided attention to our activities conducted in the area. There was exposure on Indonesian national TV 1 about the program and about the fishermen’s villages. This publicity will surely help the motivation of the local people as well as spread awareness around the country about the issues and solutions. One important national feature about this project aired on national television, which you can view here.
We received a very positive reaction from the local government and governor. We also received a request to expand the program to other areas in Lombok. The local governmental education department was enthusiastic about to all our school visits.
Our team has been able to intensively coordinate with the local government in the area where mostly sharks are hunted and discuss legal enforcement of existing species protection laws. Also, billboards were placed in collaboration with the local government to remind the local fishermen about the status of some species in order to remind them of the law and potential enforcement.
We learned that it is extremely important to first set up a proper collaboration with the local government and also local non-governmental organizations and community groups prior to our own educational program. We also learned that the areas we visited in Lombok are extremely poor, and the local people were very grateful with our visits and collaboration, and they hope this will be longer term.
Image source: Allen Lee/Flickr