Boats to Burn

Boats to Burn: Bajo Fishing Activity in the Australian Fishing Zone

Natasha Stacey
Volume: 2
Copyright Date: 2007
Published by: ANU Press
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  • Book Info
    Boats to Burn
    Book Description:

    Under a Memorandum of Understanding between Indonesia and Australia, traditional Indonesian fishermen are permitted access to fish in a designated area inside the 200 nautical mile Australian Fishing Zone (AFZ). However, crew and vessels are regularly apprehended for illegal fishing activity outside the permitted areas and, after prosecution in Australian courts, their boats and equipment are destroyed and the fishermen repatriated to Indonesia. This is an ethnographic study of one group of Indonesian maritime people who operate in the AFZ. It concerns Bajo people who originate from villages in the Tukang Besi Islands, Southeast Sulawesi. It explores the social, cultural, economic and historic conditions which underpin Bajo sailing and fishing voyages in the AFZ. It also examines issues concerning Australian maritime expansion and Australian government policies, treatment and understanding of Bajo fishing. The study considers the concept of “traditional” fishing regulating access to the MOU area based on use of unchanging technology, and consequences arising from adherence to such a view of “traditional”; the effect of Australian maritime expansion on Bajo fishing activity; the effectiveness of policy in providing for fishing rights and stopping illegal activity, and why Bajo continue to fish in the AFZ despite a range of ongoing restrictions on their activity.

    eISBN: 978-1-920942-95-3
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-x)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    James J. Fox

    This book, Natasha Stacey’s Boats to Burn, is a study of considerable importance for an understanding of maritime relations in the Arafura and Timor Seas. The Arafura and Timor Seas link Australia and Indonesia. These seas provide more than just a source of shared resources; they also offer a common history of maritime involvement. This book explores this critical, but little known maritime history and considers its implication for the present.

    Boats to Burn focuses on the role of a distinctive population, the Bajo or Bajau Laut, who are remarkable for their sailing and fishing traditions. Known as the ‘sea...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xviii)
    Natasha Stacey
  5. Abbreviations
    (pp. xix-xx)
  6. Chapter 1: Contested Rights of Access
    (pp. 1-6)

    This study considers contested rights of access to fisheries resources between Indonesian fishermen and the Australian government in the Timor and Arafura seas. The imposition of international maritime borders between Australia and Indonesia has created a situation of conflict between various groups of Indonesian fishermen seeking access to traditional fishing grounds and the sovereign integrity of Australia′s border regime. This conflict is exemplified by the many Indonesian fishing vessels apprehended for illegal incursions into Australian waters each year.

    This book is an ethnographic study of the sailing and fishing voyages undertaken by one group of eastern Indonesian maritime people who...

  7. Chapter 2: Bajo Settlement History
    (pp. 7-30)

    Scattered throughout mainland and island Southeast Asia are three groups of people generally referred to in literature as ′sea nomads′, ′sea people′ or ′sea gypsies′ (Sopher 1977). These three broad ethno-linguistic groups are the Moken, the Orang Laut and the Sama-Bajau. Each group is geographically, linguistically and culturally distinct and has adapted to the rich maritime environment and island ecosystems of Southeast Asia (Sather 1997: 320–8).

    The Bajo of eastern Indonesia are a sub-group of the largest group, the Sama-Bajau. As well as being nomadic boat dwellers or former boat nomads, the Sama-Bajau are also inshore and land-based peoples:...

  8. Chapter 3: The Maritime World of the Bajo
    (pp. 31-56)

    The Bajo are a landless people who live in a physical landscape dominated by sea and islands (Sather 1997: 92). In the words of one Bajo, ′laut merupakan dasar hidup′ (′the sea forms the basis of their life′). The marine environment also constitutes ′living spaces′ (Chou 1997: 613) for the Bajo since they spend their entire life in the vicinity of the sea, living either in pile houses built over the water or on boats. Their connection to the sea is more than physical: they also have a marine cosmology based on belief in, and causal relationship with, the spirits...

  9. Chapter 4: Bajo Voyages to the Timor Sea
    (pp. 57-82)

    The history of Bajo voyaging to the Timor Sea is well documented, and the historical record can be compared with an analysis of Bajo narratives detailing sailing and fishing voyages. It is evident from these sources that Mola and Mantigola Bajo have a long history of sailing to the Timor Sea. This is not a recent phenomenon but represents a continuation of voyaging over more than two centuries. From the outset, this lama fishery has been a commercial venture and Bajo have been part of local, regional and international trading economies from the beginning.

    The history of Indonesian fishing activity...

  10. Chapter 5: Australian Maritime Expansion
    (pp. 83-116)

    The developments in Australian maritime expansion, fisheries policy and legislation with regard to Indonesian fishing activity in waters now claimed by Australia are complex. While many of these developments have been analysed in detail by Campbell and Wilson (1993), any analysis of the current situation must begin with an historical perspective. The offshore islands and coral reefs located along the continental shelf in the Timor Sea have long been ′stepping stones between Asia and Australia′ for both European and Indonesian mariners (Fairbridge 1948: 193). While most of the reefs and islands of the Timor Sea were mapped and named by...

  11. Chapter 6: Bajo Responses to Australian Policy
    (pp. 117-134)

    During the period of developments in Australian responses to Indonesian fishing activity during the 1970s and 1980s, Bajo continued to operate both inside and outside the permitted zones. During that time surveillance patrols and repeated boardings of Indonesian perahu by Australian officials had little effect in deterring continued shark fishing operations in the prohibited offshore areas along the continental shelf. While shark was the main product sought after by the majority of Bajo perahu, at certain times they pursued other marine products including reef fish, trochus shell and turtle shell. However, the collection of valuable sedentary products such as trochus...

  12. Chapter 7: Sailing, Fishing and Trading in 1994
    (pp. 135-170)

    In this chapter I shall document the pattern of Bajo sailing, fishing and trade during the 1994 east monsoon fishing season in order to explore the social, cultural and economic motivations behind the perpetuation of these activities in the face of Australia′s maritime expansion and the financial distress caused by boat apprehensions and confiscations.

    Preparations in Mola began many months before the boats left their home villages for Pepela. Aside from the maintenance work to be done on each boat, it was also necessary to organise the social relations, roles and responsibilities of boat owners, captains and crew. Shark voyaging...

  13. Chapter 8: An Evaluation of Australian Policy
    (pp. 171-194)

    There are a number of reasons why Australian policy is not effective in deterring illegal activity. A key feature of Australian policy has been the definition of ′traditional′ fishing encapsulated in the 1974 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that regulates access for Indonesian fishermen in the AFZ. This concept of the ′traditional′ reflects a simplistic but popular evolutionist view that emphasises the static, timeless, and non-commercial aspects of culture and ignores any process of cultural change and adaptation. While contemporary anthropological and legal opinions in Australia depict tradition and culture as dynamic in the face of changing circumstances, government policy towards...

  14. Appendix A: Sources on Indonesian Fishing in Australian Waters
    (pp. 195-196)
  15. Appendix B: Memorandum of Understanding Between the Government of Australia and the Government of the Republic of Indonesia Regarding the Operations of Indonesian Traditional Fishermen in Areas of the Australian Exclusive Fishing Zone and Continental Shelf (7 November 1974)
    (pp. 197-198)
  16. Appendix C: Agreed Minutes of Meeting Between Officials of Australia and Indonesia on Fisheries (29 April 1989)
    (pp. 199-204)
  17. References
    (pp. 205-216)
  18. Index
    (pp. 217-222)