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Bali Bill:
A Fisherman's Trail
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I had a very interesting trip to Lombok... Believe what you hear about the place, in that it is beautiful with warm and friendly people, sweeping rice fields, beautiful beaches and some of the nicest fish I have yet to see in Indonesia.

I do not recommend the mode of travel that I picked though... There is a high speed ferry that whips you from Sanur in Bali to the hot tourist spots in Lombok in about an hour. As I am "Billy Bali Boy", not a tourist and traveling "local", I took the slow boat. After a two hour drive to the harbor, a five hour ferry ride and another two hour drive, we found IKAN SEGAR (fresh fish). I was disappointed to find out that Ikan segar and tourists to not inhabit the same part of Lombok. I would love to return to Lombok in the future as a tourist in the guise of a fish buyer...

There was a great abundance of fish, the largest I have seen in Indonesia so far, with Tengiri, Bali Monk, Lemadang, Opaka, Kuwe, Emperors, Red Snapper, Yellow Tail Snappers and Groupers all represented although the handling left a lot to be desired. There are two types of boats that fish the near by waters off Lombok. The small cutout day boat of the outrigger design and the larger traditional fishing vessel that goes out for days at a time. Both use hook and line to catch the fish which was very evident in the quality I saw on shore and although the boats carry ice, that is where the nod to quality control ends... Once landed, the fish are handled each and every one, a total of six times before they are cut for me. They are off loaded from the boats into small trays that hold about 20 kgs of fish and then carried to a large bin where they are iced down. Then for some unknown reason to me, they are pulled out of the bin, separated and placed on the ground, in the mud. Some ice is thrown on top for appearances. It might of just been done for the benefit of the bulay (me) who was watching this with a very critical eye. Then when the bin is empty, it is loaded on a truck. This took 10 men. I refused to help while furiously looking through my Bahasa - English dictionary for the word "winch". Then the fish is weighted and then placed in the truck, back in the same bin it was in before, and then iced again. This all takes place in 90 degree weather and just for fun, it started raining cats and dogs. The rain, although lowering the temperature to a balmy 85 degrees, increases the humidity to about 95 percent. My question of "Why is the fish not weighted when being taken off the boat and then put directly on the truck?" was answered - "Tidak tahu (I don't know...)". It is just the fish biz when you have 100 hands around and not much else to do.

This was the most rewarding search so far for the elusive Ikan segar and after the disappointment I found in Sulawesi, a very welcome one. Although I am encouraged by the diversity and the quality of the fish I saw in market in Lombok, much needs to be done to improve handling. I found the fisherman to be very friendly and they welcomed my input, or at least they were polite about listening, still a good start. Besides having to constantly answer "NO, I am NOT Australian!", I felt very welcome there.

Bill Marinelli is known throughout Asia as the “Oyster King”. A Marine biologist turned fish monger, he has been distributing live shellfish and fresh fish around the USA and Asia since 1982.

Marinelli Shellfish
2383 S. 200th St.
Seattle, WA 98198
Ph: 206-870-0233
Fax: 206-870-0238

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