In Batu Putih, about 1 hour from the Bitung Harbor, North Sulawesi, Elsje Takarendehang starts the day at 3 am to finish her housework before going out to sea to fish. After the children leave for school at 7 am, Elsje goes out to fish and returns in the afternoon.
The Maluku Sea has abundant marine resources due to a healthy underwater ecosystem which is home to many fish. Together with the fisherwomen’s group, Elsje catches various species of fish, including Saramea, Red Snapper, Gorara, Goropa and many more.
Elsje has been doing this routine for 20 years. Her love for the sea started in her childhood and was developed when she was helping her husband go fishing in order to support her family’s income. Elsje then invited other women in Batu Putih to go fishing at sea and formed a fishing group. Her fishing group, named Gorara – taken from the name of the fish that they often catch – consists of housewives, teachers, and even university students. Before, it was uncommon for women to go fishing at sea, but since this group has started, they encouraged more women to fish and become ‘influencer’, with many housewives becoming interested in going to sea to fish because they saw the Gorara Group who often brought home a lot of fish.
Elsje and 3 to 4 members of the group did not have to go too far out to sea. Around four kilometres off the shore, they could catch more than 200 fish (40 kilograms) in one trip using their small boat. Afterwards, they sell the fish through Facebook Groups of Batu Putih community and to the surrounding areas. From the sale, Elsje could earn between IDR 50,000 and 100,000 per day.
Gorara’s fishing activities are not without challenges. Since they do not own a boat, most of the time they need to wait for their husbands to return from fishing the night before. When it is monsoon season, strong and big waves become a huge obstacle, therefore sometimes they decide not to go out to fish because the safety of the group is their top priority.
Elsje really enjoys her fishing activity. Being at sea with her friends is exciting and catching the fish gives her satisfaction. Elsje admitted that when she could not go fishing, she would physically feel unwell.
“Because fishing is fun, I want to continue going to the sea to fish until I get old,”
said Elsje, who wanted to see more women being fishers. So far, based on FAO data, the number of fisherwomen is only around 15% of the total number of fishers worldwide. Rather than staying at home and do nothing, Elsje prefers to go fishing because she can bring additional income for the family. Elsje’s next dream is to own a large boat with an engine so that she can sail farther and safer with all members of her group.
Besides the fishing itself, the most important thing for Elsje is protecting the marine ecosystem. Beyond paying attention to the infrastructure that supports the fishing activity such as docks, processing places and fish auctions, Elsje thinks that coral reefs and the environment must be well protected. Because without it, the fish will cease to exist and fishers will not be able to maintain their livelihoods.
Photos: SecondMuse/Ina Saptiono
This story is a part of the Indonesian Women in Fisheries campaign, organized by SecondMuse and USAID Oceans and Fisheries Partnership, to increase public awareness of the importance of women’s role in the seafood sector. Seven inspiring women from Bitung, North Sulawesi, Indonesia will be profiled throughout the campaign. Follow #IDwomeninfisheries on Instagram and Twitter to catch all the stories.