The Con­tro­versy

Asian Diver (English) - - The Best of Voo -

The In­ter­na­tional Con­ven­tion for the Reg­u­la­tion of Whal­ing al­lows some indige­nous peo­ples to hunt whales, though com­mer­cial whal­ing was banned in 1986. This is cer­tainly what the La­maler­ans are keen to high­light; noth­ing goes to waste – a valid point of con­trast to large-scale fish­ing and the waste in by­catch it pro­duces. La­malera’s whalers use sim­i­lar tra­di­tional meth­ods to those West­ern mariners prac­tised in the early 19th cen­tury – an era when the crews ven­tured great oceanic dis­tances in search of whales and their blub­ber for oil ex­trac­tion, long be­fore cer­tain species were hunted to near ex­tinc­tion.

An­nu­ally, sperm whales and other cetaceans mi­grate be­tween the In­dian Ocean and the Pa­cific. Through­out the main ocean sea­son, also called

Leva Sea­son, from May un­til late Oc­to­ber, these gi­ant marine an­i­mals pass through the Savu Sea. They will feed on the big squids of Pu­lau Lem­bata’s south­ern shore where the La­maler­ans are wait­ing. To­day, the vil­lagers are hunt­ing sperm whales and other marine species largely as they have for cen­turies, but cer­tain things have changed.

Whereas un­til the late 1990s, the vil­lagers had only been tak­ing to the sea for liveli­hood in sim­ple sail­boats called paledang, they’re now also us­ing en­gine-pow­ered boats to pull the paledang off­shore once a whale is sighted and to search for their daily prey. Con­ser­va­tion­ists are alarmed be­cause the vil­lagers catch not only sperm whales, but also pro­tected deep-sea species like manta rays, or­cas, dol­phins and oceanic sharks with their en­gine-pow­ered boats all year round to pro­vide food and a liv­ing for their com­mu­nity.

In 2010, the Min­istry of Tourism (East Nusa Teng­gara) and WWF work­ers came to La­malera to talk about con­ser­va­tion, sug­gest­ing the idea of whale watch­ing to at­tract tourism. As they were mak­ing their speech, some La­maler­ans set off and re­turned with their whal­ing knifes to chase the en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists out of their vil­lage, claim­ing they had been liv­ing a fine life with­out gov­ern­men­tal in­sti­tu­tions, so there wouldn’t be any need to talk. Ten mil­i­tary sol­diers rolled in, stand­ing against a hun­dred out­raged vil­lagers. More dis­cus­sions fol­lowed, but to no avail.

Since then, ven­tur­ing to La­malera with the in­ten­tion of talk­ing about con­ser­va­tion aware­ness has car­ried cer­tain risks.

Yosef Bataona, the head of La­malera vil­lage, ex­plains, “We’re liv­ing in a ma­chine era! Nev­er­the­less, the num­ber of sperm whales we catch an­nu­ally has not in­creased de­spite the use of en­gine-boats to sup­port the paledang crew. Last year, we hunted down 25 whales. Some years we might catch

40, but some­times not even one. On av­er­age, we need to kill three sperm whales a year to feed all our fam­i­lies. Us La­maler­ans be­lieve the whales are a gift from our an­ces­tors and god.

This is about sur­vival! We couldn’t get through if only re­ly­ing on the whales. Lately, we have been get­ting lots of pres­sure from the me­dia world, but no one seems to re­ally un­der­stand the deeper sense of our sit­u­a­tion. Our peo­ple here strug­gle for one spoon of rice or a piece of corn. There is no fertile soil and the en­tire to­pog­ra­phy is stony, which makes grow­ing crops im­pos­si­ble, so we have no choice but to take full ad­van­tage of what the sea of­fers us. Thus, as long as no one can pro­vide us the salary needed, we have to carry on.”

– Yosef Bataona, head of La­malera vil­lage “This is about sur­vival! We couldn’t get through if only re­ly­ing on the whales.

Lately, we have been get­ting lots of pres­sure from the me­dia world, but no one seems to re­ally un­der­stand the deeper sense of our sit­u­a­tion. ”

OP­PO­SITE PAGE: The fish­er­men re­turn in the late af­ter­noon with their catch, usu­ally con­sist­ing of fly­ing fish, but also of manta rays, dol­phins, sharks and tur­tles IM­AGE: Clau­dio Sieber LEFT: Even the youngest chil­dren par­tic­i­pate in help­ing the...

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