Timor Sea oil spill forcing NTT fishermen to migrate

Kupang (ANTARA News) - Thousands of fishermen in Kupang`s Oesapa area are preparing to migrate to Bangka Belitung in Sumatra to find a new livelihood, a fishermen spokeman said.

They will migrate because their fish catches from the Timor Sea have declined drastically since the waters were polluted by an oil spill originating in Australian territory.

"Since the Timor Sea was polluted by an oil spill from a blowout in the Montara oil field on August 21, 2009, local fishermen`s fish catches have dwindled drastically. Now they are thinking of migrating to Bangka Belitung to build a new life," H Mustafa, chairman of the East Nusatenggara (NTT)`s Timor Sea Traditional Fishermen`s Alliance (Antralamor), told the press here Wednesday.

Some 3,500 fishermen grouped in Antralamor whose livelihoods had traditionally depended on fish from the Timor Sea had been affected by the oil spill following an explosion at an oil rig of PTTEP Australasia in the Montara oil field in the West Atlas Block in the Timor Sea, he said.

The fishermen had also pulled back most of the fish traps they had set in the sea along the Kupang coast because the contraptions no longer yielded the usual quantities of fish.

Meanwhile, an edible fat and oil biochemist at Nusa Cendana University (Undana), Dr Felix Rebhung, said the apparent pollution of the Timor Sea had forced deep sea fish in the waters to migrate to other waters.

"Deep-sea fishes are very sensitive to the conditions of their environment. If their environment or habitat is damaged or polluted, they will leave, and try to find a more friendly environment," he said."So, the fishermen`s complaint about minimal fish catches is quite logical," he added.

Rebhung who teaches at Undana`s faculty of agriculture said if a sea was contaminated by oil, oil condensate or lead, it would take many years for its ecology to return to normal.

Ferdi Tanoni, a local observer of Timor Sea affairs, said President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono should address the Timor Sea pollution problem with the same care and firmness as US President Barack Obama had shown toward the Gulf of Mexico oil spill from a British Petroleum (BP) rig.

"If Barack Obama demanded 20 billion US dollars in damages from BP, the operator of the Monatara oil field should pay about 15 billion US dollars to compensate the losses of fishermen in the western part of East Nusatenggara and the islands of Rote, Sabu and Sumba," he said.

Tanoni also urged the Australian government led by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to disclose as soon as possible the results of its investigation into the Montara oil spill disaster.

The oil spill had caused thousands of fishermen and seeweed breeders in the western part of NTT to lose their source of living, making it "a humanitarian tragedy of huge proportions," Tanoni said. (*)

Source : http://antaranews.com/en/news/1277325220/timor-sea-oil-spill-forcing-ntt-fishermen-to-migrate

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