A Fishermans Tale

I woke by the sound of loud voices. When exiting the bed, - it was easy to detect the voices whereabouts, because the wind carried the noise, from the beach, up the mountain, reaching the tiny bamboo cottage, where I was staying.

I waited a bit, tried guessing what the local Low-Fishermen had caught a part from the usual Mackerel, since they were celebrating… Until I realized that it was not happy tones to their voices, but on the contrary, - a sort of distressing vibe. And that erased any last memory of rendering dreams. I quickly found my camera, with freshly loaded batteries, got dressed, jumped into my flip flops and ran down the mountain to the beach. When finally at the beach, it was easy to see from a distance, what the locals had caught. A big shark… Using my last breath, I rushed over to the fishermen, who in the mean time had calmed down, - standing next to the fishing boat with an approx. 5 meter tiger shark lying in the water next to it.

Since I did not have the capability of speaking, nor understanding the Balinese language, I at first tried to communicate with the Fishermen by using body language.

This worked okay, - I understood who owned the boat, and that this Fishermans net, in which the shark had been entangled, had been destroyed, - but how exactly was difficult to understand, even though they tried to explain…


Then something really lucky happened.

A woman named Wayan, whom spoke english had arrived to the beach and saw our efforts in trying to communicate with one another. Wayan came over, and proposed translating the Fishermans tale - which was fantastisk !


She explained : As usual, - the Fishermen had been out fishing from very early morning, - but then one of them caught something unintentional, - this being the big shark. He called out for help from the other Fishermen. He did not wish for the shark to die, cause in this region of Bali, it is believed it to be bad luck, - killing sharks…

At first some of the other Fishermen came over to help him. They tried to untangle the distressed big shark, - but it was too strong. In fact it was rocking the Fishermans boat around. So unfortunately, this did not work, and the shark was getting itself even more entangled in the net.

Since the Fishermen was stressed, and wanted the shark freed from the net, - he called and summoned the rest of the Fishermen, fishing that morning. They sailed around the Fishermans boat with the entangled shark, and yelled suggestions to one another, about what could be done to save the shark.

Many different efforts were made… But unfortunately non of them succesfull. So in the end, the Fisherman decided to cut the shark free from the net.

Perhaps You might be thinking, - why didn't the Fisherman, just cut the shark loose from the net for starters ? And the reason being, this net, was the Fishermans livelihood, - the net was (as Wayan explained) the most precious thing he owned along with his fishing boat, since net was expensive, and it secured food for his family.

But the Fisherman did cut the shark free from the net, - though unfortunately a bit too late. The shark was still alive, though barely, when it was cut loose, properly also extremely stressed by the whole situation.


Yet, the Fisherman knew, that if he kept it on the side of his fishing boat while sailing slowly, could help by pushing water though its mouth and gills, - and this could function as a sort of CPR. So gently he placed the shark on the side of his fishing boat and began trying to awaken it… According to Wayan, he spend a very long time, during sunrise, trying to “wake” the shark. When the sun had risen, he gave up the hope of the sharks survival, - and the shark had probably been dead for at least an hour at the given time. So he decided to join the rest of the Fishermen, returning “home” to the beach after a hard morning.


The Fisherman had brought the shark with him, for a special reason… Non of the Fishermen, woking that morning, had caught that much, since all of them had tried to help free the shark.


While standing on the beach, listening to Wayan, translating the Fishermans tale, some men and women had begun cutting up the shark. So I asked, - “If it is bad luck to catch a shark, - then how come You are cutting it up ?” And she replied, that they would share the meat, so all the Fishermen that had been helping out, trying to save the shark and therefore had no catch that morning, would still be able to feed their families that evening…

I thanked Wayan sincerely for spending time and helping me to understand the situation. We smiled to one another, and she walked over to her husband, - one of the Fishermen that had tried to help out that morning.


Then I started shooting some pictures of the process, - cutting up the shark. I did not want to ask Wayan, what they were going to be using the shark fins for, - since I thought this could invoke something unnecessarily. And I was positively chocked to discover this myself, - since they left the fins, like they would leave the fins of a mackerel, - as “leftover-garbage”…


In the shark trade industry, and also, many other places in Bali, sharks are only caught for their fins. The fins will be sold for a very high price on markets, or shipped to other countries for consumption.

An approx. 70-100 million sharks are killed annually, - most commonly for their fins. But these Fishermen, left the fins in the waters edge, - and the fins would eventually be pulled out by the waves and washed away by the currents.

This told me, that these Fishermen, - either, knew the price of the fins on the market, but were faithfull to their belief in good or bad Karma, - or, did not know of the fins value on the market, - since the Fisherman whose net, - and therefore livelihood was compromised, could properly earn enough money by selling the fins alone, to by a new fishing net.


This situation also perspectifies some challenges of the everyday life of a Low-Fisherman, - and the understandable reasons for many Fishermen to enter the shark fin trade, - since this may start, as simple as being left with a destroyed fishing net, - and no money to buy a new one…



By Blue Reporter, Naja Bertolt Jensen

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