Inside a wooden house above the water in Popisi village, Banggai Laut regency, Taslim ‘Bob’ Bukhari, a fisher from Sumatra Island, was enthusiastically explaining how to use umpan palsu (false bait) to catch octopus. Despite an arduous two-day journey from his home in Merpas village, Bengkulu province, Bob’s spirits were high. It was the moment that he had been waiting for. That afternoon, along with several of his colleagues, he was demonstrating the fishing gear that he uses to catch octopus to fishers from Popisi and its neighbouring villages in Banggai Laut.

Bob explained that umpan palsu attract octopus out of the reef – as soon as it catches the bait, the fisher pulls the octopus to the surface. The fishers from Popisi listened intently. They normally use two different baits; manis-manis (octopus-shaped bait) for big octopus and cipo (crab-shaped bait) for smaller octopus.

I was able to learn many things from the fishers here. We are here because of octopus, I never thought I would be able to come here. So I think we shouldn’t underestimate the octopus” – Taslim ‘Bob’ Bukhari, octopus fisher from Merpas village, Bengkulu

This meeting was part of ‘Anjangsana Mitra’, a community exchange between Akar Foundation, Yayasan LINI and Yayasan KALI, three of Blue Ventures’ partners in Indonesia, facilitated by Yayasan Pesisir Lestari. The three-day event in Banggai Laut welcomed five community members from Merpas village, including fishers, data collectors, and octopus buyers.

As partnership and network manager at Yayasan Pesisir Lestari, it’s my responsibility to support and facilitate learning between communities and partners. I spend a lot of time visiting them and attending events, such as Anjangsana Mitra like this one in Banggai Laut. Like Bob, I had travelled a long way to attend; from Bali to Banggai Laut, which is in Indonesia’s Central Sulawesi province.

Since 2016, LINI and KALI have been working together in Banggai Laut to support locally led conservation and octopus fisheries management. They have been building relationships with the communities, and training and supporting data collectors from the village to collect comprehensive data on octopus catches. The communities here have since established a fishers’ group which has implemented temporary fishery closures to ensure the sustainability of catches.

Similarly, since early 2020, Akar Foundation has been assisting the fishing community in Merpas village to record their catch data.

The exchange allowed Akar Foundation and the community it works with to learn more about community-based fisheries management from LINI and KALI, including temporary closures, data feedback sessions, stakeholder engagement, and sustainable fishing techniques. 

LINI and KALI support us to work with other communities to start managing our octopus fisheries together. I’m grateful that I can be involved in communities coming together and working towards our shared vision for a healthy ocean” – Haji Rahmat, head of North Banggai sub regency, Banggai Laut

Learning about the importance of maintaining octopus quality

During the exchange, the participants visited the Fish Quarantine Inspection Agency (FQIA) of Banggai Regency. FQIA is the official Indonesian government agency to ensure fish health, quality, and safety of fishery products for both export and import.

Marlan, head of FQIA Banggai, and his staff greeted us with a warm welcome as we arrived. 

We need to improve the quality of octopus caught so that fishers can meet the standard for export. To encourage this, we collaborate with export companies and organisations like KALI and LINI, so that we can empower fishing communities collaboratively,” said Marlan. 

After the discussion, we were given the opportunity to visit a fish processing factory. Marlan invited us to observe the activities in the factory, accompanied by one of the factory employees. After this, we visited an octopus supplier, which is not far from the factory. There, we saw firsthand the process of sorting octopuses according to the FQIA’s criteria to be packed and sent to the city.

Tasty (and inspiring) octopus crackers

Besides sharing stories and experiences about Sumatra’s fisheries, the visiting community members from Bengkulu also had the chance to promote their local product – octopus crackers. Octopus crackers are a new product that they have created, inspired by shrimp and fish crackers that are hugely popular in Indonesia.

The production of octopus crackers is a long process. The octopus must first be ground until smooth and this blend is then mixed with flour and spices which forms the cracker. These are then are left out to dry in the sun, creating a tasty, crispy snack. During the exchange, the fishers from Banggai Laut were able to try the octopus crackers from Merpas.

I think the octopus crackers are really tasty. I am lucky because I had a chance to taste the octopus crackers from Merpas, and their coffee too.” – Haji Rahmat, Head of North Banggai sub regency, Banggai Laut

In an effort to make the supply chain shorter, the community in Merpas village transform their octopus catches into various products, like these crackers. The product symbolises their effort to develop new and innovative economic opportunities from octopus fishing.

After being introduced to the crackers during the learning exchange, the communities in Banggai Laut were very impressed and are hoping to produce their own crackers and other processed food products from the octopus they catch in future.

I was so impressed by how the community members listened to each other and were so enthusiastic to learn new ways of doing things. Prior to returning back home, while enjoying the peaceful Oyama beach next to Popisi village, we decided to hold a reflective discussion. Besides allowing us to see what went well during the event, it also provided us with feedback on what could be improved. 

I really enjoyed my time interacting with the other fishers, particularly when we were discussing sustainable fishing gears. I am grateful for this opportunity, I learnt new things and met new family.” – Taslim ‘Bob’ Bukhari, Octopus fisher from Merpas village, Bengkulu


Watch a film about this exchange in Banggai Laut:


Read about another ‘Anjangsana Mitra’ that we facilitated with our partners in North Minahasa, Indonesia


 

Posted by Erwin Sipahutar

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