James: The Coral Triangle is the most bio diverse marine ecosystem in the world. It stretches for almost 1.6 billion acres, encompassing the oceans of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Phillipines, East Timor, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. As well as having by far the world's largest number of coral and reef fish species, the Coral Triangle is also home to over 120 million human beings, many of whom depend directly on it's natural resources.
No one knows exactly how many Bajau are still living at sea but the numbers are certainly dwindling. In fact, this is probably the last generation in which you will find any individuals spending their entire lives at sea.
There are a number of reasons why this is happening. The governments of the Coral Triangle region have been implementing a forced settlement policy, whereby many Bajau are now legally required to move into settled steady [SP] communities, such as this one in Torasai Ejai [SP] but many Bajau are also moving ashore out of economic necessity. As environmental degradation in the region continues, it's increasingly difficult for the Bajau to sustain themselves at sea.
I initially came out to Indonesia in order to explore the potential of incorporating some of the Bajau's indigenous knowledge of the ocean into marine conversation strategies, but the reality is that the Bajau, as much as everybody, are now responsible for a lot of destructive fishing that's taking place in the Coral Triangle region. Many Bajau are making homemade explosives in order to bomb reefs and increase their catches, as well as the use of cyanide for the live fish trade.
Fish are caught off the coast of Sulawesi. They then ship them out to Bali where they're held in storage factories before being sent out to Hong Kong, where there's a market estimated at over $1 billion US.
Personally, I feel as though, in order to enact a really sustainable and meaningful conservation for the Coral Triangle region, we need to empower groups such as the Bajau to look after and curate their own environments. There may be small errors in this transcript.