Indon bagans could be solution to declining fish stock

01/03/2012 13:26

The Indonesian "bagan" built in Kiribati. Picture courtesy of SPC.


It looks like a house partially submerged in the ocean but this wooden structure could be the solution to the food insecurity threat that hangs over the Pacific Islands.

The 10 square meter structure is called “bagan” by Indonesians and could, according to the Noumea-based Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), play a key role in mitigating the effects of overfishing and climate change.

The SPC has urged Pacific Islanders to “fish small, not big”, and says the bagan could enable communities to embrace more sustainable fishing practices as pressure continues to grow on coral reef fish stock.

A fishing platform or bagan will help coastal and island communities change their fishing preferences from large reef fish such as groupers and snappers, to small open-sea fish like sardines and anchovies. The bagan was launched and tested on February 28 in Majuro, Marshall Islands to demonstrate its suitability for fishing communities across the Pacific.

The project is the brainchild of Michel Blanc, a fisheries development adviser with the SPC, with input from the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA).

“The bagan is a platform with a hole in the centre, winches at each corner, a lift net hanging underneath and a string of lights. It’s a simple idea – the fish are attracted to the lights and then we haul the net to catch them,” said Mr Blanc.

He added that finding new food sources was vital: “We need to find new sources of food, because the population of the Pacific Islands is rising rapidly and we can no longer depend entirely on reef fisheries”.

Switching the catch to small fish like sardines also has its advantages, said Mr Blanc, as sardines breed quickly, is nutritious and swim in schools making them easy to catch. They can also be sold in local markets, opening up income earning opportunities for locals.

The SPC predicts the population in the Pacific Islands will increase by 50 per cent by 2030, while tropical Pacific reef fish populations are predicted to decline by up to 20 per cent by 2050. Fish are becoming harder to catch because over-fishing has reduced their numbers. A threat also looming over the fishery is climate change, which bleaches and then kills the coral where parrot-fish, grouper and snapper live.

The bagan is a fishing technology used extensively in Indonesia, although the 10 square metre platform was built in Kiribati and shipped in kit form to Majuro. Two Indonesians helped with the demonstration.