Our friend and Melon ambassador Danya Schwertfeger’s latest project sees him embark on a journey into remote Indonesia to investigate the effect that illegal dynamite fishing is having on our environment and ecosystems. 

Fishermen outside their houses
“We don’t have big dreams of money and a big house, what matter is that we can sustain our family with fish.”

KA-BOOM!! A cheese grater on my soul. Thousands of fish, pristine coral and millions of marine organisms instantly turned to mush.

This is from the first article I read about the destruction of the Indonesian marine ecosystem, being blown to dust, by bomb fishers. I got in touch with Oscar award winning Shawn Heinrich; he truly inspired me to apply my skills and try to take matters into my own hands. Shawn put me in touch with locals in West Sumatra, Indonesia, who have to deal with bomb fishers blowing up their reef on a day to day basis. This was the first step of my journey.

Local Fishing Boat Mentawai
A local coming home from a day out at sea, fishing for tomorrows lunch.

To put it in to perspective, the conventional way of fishing with a $2000-$4000 boat, 30 crew members, a hand made fishing net (around  500m-1000m long), at sea anything from 3-7 days, will harvest around 7-12 ton of fish. A bomb fisherman will pay $25 per bomb, and the boat that they predominantly use, is a small single engine $200 boat with a crew of 2-3 people. Armed with a sonar they can catch up to 7 ton of fish with two bombs. The comparison speaks for itself.

With the coral reef, the backbone of tropical marine ecosystems being destroyed, local fish resources are plummeting, along with the potential for the massive income from the utilisation of world-class marine tourism resources (surfing, diving, fishing etc). The problem is not limited to the Mentawais though. The UN Environment Program reports that 86% of Indonesia’s reefs are at serious risk of being completely destroyed in this way.

Hand made fish bombs Mentawai
Hand made bombs in glass bottles, made from potassium nitrate (also known as “rice”)


Walking down the main roads in Siberut, I found myself surrounded by heaps of coral. It took me a while to realise that the houses – and even the ground I was walking on – was in fact made of coral dust.

When queried about the reef and the harm caused every time a bomb is thrown onto it; the responses from the locals were often a smile followed by shrug and a deplorable excuse that ‘there is enough reef anyway.’ This was a clear sign that there is a serious lack of education in regards to the current state and future of this planet.

Dead Fish Mentawai
80% of the fish sinks to the bottom most of which failed to be collected and ends up on the shore.

Together with the local authority, I am now working on creating a charity. Not only to eliminate the practice of bomb fishing, but also to create jobs for locals. By having charter boats patrol the waters, educating locals and replanting coral, I’m hoping to replenish the quantity of fish and in turn tourism. Essentially working towards a more sustainable future.