“I’ve been fishing since I was 17 years old,” says Mama Elizabeth Limai, her lips stained red with betel nut and her forehead beaded with sweat from a hard day’s work. “I normally catch ikan kaca (glassfish), gulama (white croaker), kakap (snapper), kurau (threadfin) and udang (shrimp),” she explains. Today, a bundle of glassfish hangs from her shoulder, while her bright-eyed daughter, Mariana, stands nervously by her side.
Elizabeth is one of many small-scale fishers who live and work in the village of Kumbe in South Papua. Together with her husband, Chris, she wakes up early each morning to fish with homemade nets on the beach and in shallow outlets along the coast. On a typical day, they can bring in around 10 kilos of fresh fish, which they sell locally, walking door to door along the main road of their village.
Elizabeth and Chris have been fishing this way for the past five years. But even in that short space of time, they’ve seen changes. “It’s getting more difficult to catch fish nowadays, because the beach here has become dirty and polluted,” explains Elizabeth. She has noticed her catch getting smaller and smaller, as the fish are scared away by coastal pollution. “It didn’t used to be like this; we need to clean up the beaches here, so the fish will return.”
(By Chris Alexander)