There are many forms of destructive and IUU fishing in coral reef ecosystems and adjacent habitats worldwide. However, fish bombing (also known as blast or dynamite fishing) is a globally significant type of destructive fishing which can now be detected and accurately geolocated in real-time at reasonable cost (using established acoustic sensing and location technology). These technological developments now enable effective enforcement (from violation to verdict) as well as information that better enables improved management of affected communities and damaged habitats.
Fish bombing is widespread and a major threat to coral reef ecosystem biodiversity and resilience as a result of its indiscriminate and cumulative destruction of fish, other species and the biophysical habitat i.e. their life support system. As a result, its destructive nature directly threatens the long-term sustainable harvest of the principal source of protein for subsistence fishermen, their families and coastal communities worldwide.
In combination with pollution, coastal development, global warming and other threats, fish bombing reduces the resilience of these ecosystems to climate change and removes important management options that would mitigate climate change impacts and risks. Unfortunately, techniques for restoring reefs are still in their infancy and are not cost effective alternatives so prevention is the only feasible option and is achieved through soft measures (community development) and hard measures (enforcement).
Overfishing, exacerbated by destructive fishing, leads to food insecurity. Faced with a dwindling food supply and having limited options for decent work, a dis-empowered rural population with expertise in home-made explosives pose a potential risk to peace and security in the future. This pathway elevates destructive fishing from an environmental issue to a security risk.
However, compared to many other forms of destructive and IUU fishing, fish bombing is a tractable problem because, as an introduced, non-traditional fishing method, it is very easily understood by the general public to be illegal, highly unsustainable and threatens food security for millions of people.
Acoustic detection and location systems integrated with other existing and emerging surveillance and monitoring technologies present an effective opportunity to suppress, if not eradicate, fish bombing within a short time frame. With some devolution of power community-based enforcement has been shown to be effective, and by involving communities in the solution the costs of enforcement can be further reduced.
Significant networks of stakeholders have already been established in three countries of the Coral Triangle and Tanzania. A separate Voluntary Commitment has been registered by the State Government of Sabah to apply fish bomb detection technology in the Tun Mustapha Marine Park (around 900 square kilometers in area) as an example of best practice in tackling the issue, and lessons learnt here will be valuable for implementation in other territories.
Report on the pilot study in Sabah through means of videos, action plans, workshop proceedings and published academic papers; Coordinate with trans-national groups engaged in marine environmental security and report the results on the SFB! website; Continue to develop partnerships with local groups tackling the fish bombing issue in different territories and report on partnerships that arise.
Facilitate the implementation of an operational enforcement system to suppress fish bombing in Sabah In partnership with others, facilitate alternative income generating activities in affected areas Initiate pilot study in one new territory in collaboration with local partner(s), including legal review and reform, engagement with government authorities and maritime security agencies Secure sufficient funding for large scale roll out of anti fish bombing system and protocols
Initiate pilot study in a total of five new territories in collaboration with local partner(s), and support/facilitate in the delivery of larger scale enforcement efforts in the majority of these territories
Financing (in USD)
Financing (in USD)
Staff / Technical expertise
: part time inputs from 10 senior professionals (Directors, Principle Consultants, Senior Consultants) and approximately 20 support staff (administrators, technicians, film crew, etc.)
Time-frame: 2017 - 2022
State of Sabah Anti-Fish Bombing Committee (Government), Maritime Boundary Office of Timor Leste (Government), Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd (Private Sector), BASF East Asia Regional Headquarters Ltd. (Private Sector), Li Po Chun United World College of Hong Kong (Academic Institute), English Schools Foundation (Partnership), Outward Bound Hong Kong (NGO). DHI Malaysia (Kota Kinabalu) Sbn Bhd (Private Sector), Five Oceans Environmental Services LLC (Private Sector), MW Experiences Incorporated (Private Sector), Matthew Cooper (Private Sector), Moving Suchi (NG), JD Kotze (Private Sector)
- Indian Ocean
- South Pacific
Indonesia, Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Timor Leste, Tanzania, Cambodia, Vietnam
George Woodman, Dr, email@example.com, +852 8123 7957