Indigenous People in Tanah Papua (both Papua and Papua Barat Province), have their own local wisdom to protect their nature and biodiversity which called sasi. Sasi is a tradition which prohibits people from entering and using the resources of an area up until a predetermined time when the area can be re-opened and the resources can be used together among themselves or for commercial purposes.
In Sombokoro village, Windesi District, Teluk Wondama Regency, Papua Barat Province the sasi known as Sawora means to take an oath. Two years ago, the people of Sombokoro village agreed to perform Sawora in that area. This was to protect an area of 345,203 ha consisting of reefs, seagrasses, mangroves and its fishery resource potential.
On late April 2018, The Sawora was officially reopened. During the reopening ceremony the head of Sombokoro Village, Ismael Minuari conveyed in his speech that sasi ritual was an ancestral heritage which must be preserved. “Our parents did not catch fish, shrimps, crabs or shellfish as much as we do now. They took only an amount enough for their domestic needs. In contrast, with the current development, many of us seem to be greedy and wish to take as much as they want.” Ismael Minuari further explained that people never thought that marine resources would run out if they were continually exploited. Even if some kinds of marine resources such as fish, shrimps, crabs, sea cucumbers and others were still available, the yield would be too small. Therefore, he and all people in Sombokoro agreed for sawora.
The ceremony to reopen the area was started with a prayer led by Pastor Markus Pararawai of the Indonesian Pentecostal Church of Sombokoro Village, who then also led the ceremony taking place in the waters of Sombokoro village. This marked the beginning of the sea catch harvest in the village.
The harvesting rule was agreed upon by the Sewiri group. The rule allows the use of environmentally friendly fishing gears that will not destroy and deplete natural resources (using a selection system). The methods used were traditional fishing and diving using fish arrows to catch fish and gloves to catch lobsters.
At harvest time, lobsters, sea cucumbers and a large number of mollusks were present in almost all coral reefs. In one fishing time of about 5 hours at sea, one group of fishermen could harvest as much as one cooler box of fish (50 kg) and 20 lobsters. “We can catch 100 sea cucumbers per day at certain locations. There are many fish and lobsters. This abundant supply of sea catch would not be possible to obtain if the sawora ritual had not been performed,” said Yohanes Munuari, one of the fishermen who benefited from the harvest.
The types of the sea catch harvested by the community are several types of sea cucumbers, lobsters and fish, including the pineapple sea cucumber (Thelenota ananas), Kongkong pecek, the black sea cucumber, the leopard sea cucumber, the elephant trunkfish (Holothuria fuscocinerea), the sandfish sea cucumber, etc. Meanwhile, there are only two types of lobsters harvested namely the bamboo lobster (Panulirus versicolor) and the long-legged spiny lobster (Panulirus longipes). As for the fish, types of harvested fish are several types of groupers (Plectropomus spp), the red snapper (Lutjanus spp), the emperor fish (Lethrinus spp), the rabbitfish (Siganus spp), the parrotfish (Scaridae), the trevally (Carangidae), the surgeonfish (Acanthuridae) and the barracuda (Scombridae).
The total value of the harvest for only two weeks was about Rp. 50,000,000 consisting of namely 70.2 kg of dry sea cucumbers with the selling prices ranging from Rp 200,000 to 700,000 per kg, 92 lobsters with the selling prices ranging from Rp 50,000 to Rp 100,000 per lobster, 277.5 kg of various kinds of fish with the selling prices ranging from Rp 25,000 to Rp 35,000 per kg, 55 kg of salted fish with the selling price of Rp 50,000 per kg, and 60 packs of smoke fish with the selling price of Rp 50,000 per 3 packs.
The area is opened for 3 months as the community may only harvest using traditional fishing methods, then area will be closed again. It is expected that through the sawora ritual, fish resources will become abundant so as to secure the source of income of the local community.
sawora in Sombokoro has been an inspiration for some villages around Teluk Cenderawasih. It was Menarbu village with the support of the Head of Roon District, allocates marine areas in Waar Village and Menarbu to be managed using the Sasi method. In Menarbu, sasi known as Kadup.
Menarbu village and Waar hamlet are community settlements located within the area of Cenderawasih Bay National Park. The community of Menarbu village has just carried out customary and church processions in the context of establishing approximately 1,194 hectares of the coastal and marine areas as closed areas for the next 2 years. During the period, it is prohibited to take several types of sea animals, namely species of lobsters (Panulirus sp), sea cucumbers (Holothuroidea), lola sea snails (Trochus niloticus), and pearl oysters (Pinctada sp). These areas from where certain species may not be taken are referred to as Kadup jenis areas. In addition, 134 ha of the coastal area will be closed for 2 years, off limit for all kinds of fishing activities, and this area is referred to as Kadup tempat (No Take Zone).
Sanctions imposed on those who violate the above rules are unwritten sanctions, namely that every violator of the rules will become ill until death befalls them. Only when the violator confesses their violation before a pastor will they be prayed for by the religious leaders to prevent them from the death of the disease they suffer. These Kadup rules are greatly feared by all the village communities, not only in the village of Menarbu but nearly all the people in the coastal regions of Papua. Monitoring of these Kadup areas is carried out directly by all people of Menarbu village. For this reason, management of the sea will become optimum if it is carried out by the local community with their local wisdom.
Author: Ade Sangadji