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Hunting Demersal Fish in the Kawasi Sea

20 April 2022

Strikes….! Come on, sir, pull it! That night, in the waters of the Kawasi Sea, it was busier than usual. The boats were seen passing each other several times and waving their hands while screaming.. "Kawasi fishing spot is great!" Especially on April 16-17, a Fishing Tournament is being held by Harita Nickel in the waters of Kawasi, Obi Island, North Maluku.

In the boat I was in, about 10 people were throwing their fishing rods, and the screams of the strike came from here. What is up? Apparently, when the fishing rod was just thrown, it took less than 5 minutes for Tonny H. Gultom, Head of HSE & Sustainability, Harita Nickel to receive the fishing rod. Like a professional who is used to fishing, he seems to be struggling with the force of the fish that pulls strongly underwater. It seems that the fish that has been caught is quite heavy because the fishing rod looks greatly curved. To the point that I thought the rod would break. After a test of strength lasted for a while between the two parties, the fishing line finally relented. The rod and the pull are already very strong, but the fishing line is not strong enough to withstand the two-way pull. And, the fishing line without warning just broke….cut off hope and the screams of many people who said in unison “nooooooo!”. An understanding smile appeared, acknowledging that the efforts were more than enough. The fishing activity was back on, and this time he caught the fish several times but not as big as before, and the other fishers were no exception.

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That night, the same kind of fun didn't just happen on the boat I was in. But it also took place in other boats which were also struggling with hooks and fishing rods. They seemed to know very well what to do because several times there was the same, faint scream from the other boats nearby. For a beginner like me, just throwing a fishing line is confusing enough, thank goodness it doesn't get tangled up in another friend's fishing line. Finally, I chose to talk, stealing knowledge for a moment about fisheries.

Then from Tony Gultom, there are information flows that are too bad to be missed. But his cell phone screen blinks for a moment, indicating a new message came in, so the conversation suddenly stopped. From the bright phone screen, I saw the incoming messages in the form of photos of the fish caught by the participants to provoke questions. "Sir, what fish is that?" it was answered that it was a demersal fish, which means bottom fish. After that flows the story, which is full of information.

Demersal fish, are fish that live on the seabed. Referring to the free encyclopedia, the term is taken from the Latin 'demergere' which means to sink. Usually, demersal fish are also called reef fish, because they live among corals on the seabed. Corals only grow well in the productive zone, not more than 30 meters maximum. Because demersal fish live by eating small fish that are around the reef, the movement of demersal fish is also around the reef, although it is possible for some to dive into the sea even deeper. Demersal fish that spend most of their lives on the deeper sea floor are categorized as benthic fish and on average are predators that hide in the sea sand to outwit their prey. While benthopelagic fish are demersal fish that can swim up but remain close to the seabed. In contrast to pelagic fish (surface fish), demersal fish contain a little oil so the meat includes white meat fish, for example, red snapper.

The story was interrupted when there was a shout from behind, “Barracuda here!”…. Apparently Iwan Syahroni, Environmental & Compliance Manager managed to get the barracuda fish. Even though at that time he had just tried the jigging technique, a fishing technique using hard lure bait in the form of metal jigs. The weight of the fish he managed to get at that time was probably around 3 kg. There was a lot of noise accompanied by laughter because the documentation process was accompanied by screams of joy. From the explanation, barracuda fish caught can be categorized as demersal fish although they can also be categorized as pelagic fish when they rise to the surface. Pelagic fish are fish that live on the surface and tend to flock. Based on the size, pelagic fish are categorized into two groups, namely large pelagic and small pelagic. Large pelagics such as tuna, tuna, and skipjack. While small pelagic fish examples include mackerel and anchovies. Compared to demersal fish, pelagic fish have more oil content in their bodies which reaches about 30%. Both demersal and pelagic fish have high economies because the market is wide open with a high level of demand.

The screams of 'Sport Kawasi is Great!' suddenly interrupted the conversation, in the night that was already past middle, eastern Indonesia time. A ketinting boat carrying 3 people then passed our boat. Looking at the catch, they seem to have caught a lot of fish. By a glimpse, there were mackerel, barracuda, and bobero fish among the piles of caught fish. Apparently, the late night did not dampen the determination of the fishers to roar with the waves, drifting in the daydream of fishing hooks.

My attention is focused again on the presentation, this time about the productivity of Obi waters, especially in western Obi. It turned out that in the western area of Obi where we were fishing at that time, it did not naturally have biota and did not have nutrients. The primary productivity of seawater is closely related to the abundance of biota and nutrients in these waters. This condition is strongly influenced by the dynamics of local waters. Obi Island is located in the southern part of the South Halmahera Regency, between Seram Island and Halmahera Island. The waters of Obi Island are passed by ARLINDO (Arus Lintas Indonesia, translates: Indonesian Crossroads), which causes dynamics in its waters. These water dynamics affect the distribution of sea surface temperature and chlorophyll-a concentrations of phytoplankton. ARLINDO passes through the northern part of Obi Island through the northern part of Bisa Island, the western part of Obi Island, and the southern part through southern Gamumu Island. The distribution of the highest concentration of chlorophyll-a is in the northern part of Obi Island, and the distribution of warmer surface temperatures. This condition shows that the productivity of the waters in the northern part of Obi Island is higher than the other waters of Obi Island.

Tonny also explained that the fish caught that night showed that the western waters of Obi were still well preserved even though naturally the waters did not contain abundant chlorophyll-a which is produced from phytoplankton. Phytoplankton is the first food chain for pelagic fish. Some pelagic fish (small pelagic) then also become food for demersal fish. Even though naturally the water conditions are like this, there are still many pelagic fish and demersal fish found in these waters.

Amidst the flowing explanations, we were once again surprised by the cheering of several of our colleagues who were also fishing on the same boat. Bobara fish and barracuda were found again. Some of them even managed to get small, beautiful colored fish that are commonly found among living corals on the surface. The cheering made us realize that it was already 3 a.m. It's time to return to the mainland.

The next day, when the names of the winners were announced, the weighty fish caught were then spread to various WhatsApp chat groups. The three main winners of the “Fishing Tournament” activity managed to get a bobara fish weighing 10.7 kg which was won by the residents of Kawasi. Next, the 9.3 kg mackerel was caught by Harita Nickel employees and the 7.6 kg red snapper was caught by the TNI members who served in Kawasi Village.

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A number of pelagic and demersal fish caught in the Fishing Tournament

Seeing the fish caught in the Harita Nickel Fishing Tournament and the explanation given by Tonny brings back memories of the efforts of our friends on site for the company’s environmental management. It's really not an easy effort but it can be done with sincerity, as is the spirit that is included in the commemoration of International Environment Day on June 5th, 2022. An activity initiated by the United Nations (UN) which oversees the environmental agenda through the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) included the #OnlyOneEarth tagline in the campaign to commemorate this year's environment day. The motto reminds us of all our shared obligation to take care of the earth because we only have one earth to live on. There is no other earth, only one!

Image1Bobara fish and red snapper became the two heaviest fish that won the 1st and 3rd place


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