Cannibal Rock is one of the more famous dive sites in Komodo National Marine Park. Cannibal Rock is a pinnacle in a channel between Rinca island and a smaller island, Nusa Kode. The reef and marine life at this site are diverse and abundant and this site is considered by those who dive there as one of the best dive sites anywhere.
Unfortunately that was not completely true in our case. For our first dive at Cannibal Rock we entered up current and were gently swept to the rock as we descended. As we reached the rock we were shocked to see dead fish all over the reef. At first I did not realize what had happened. Our dive guide made explosion gestures and I realized that we were seeing the results of blast fishing. The fishermen use homemade bombs and explode them in the water. After the explosion the fish that did not float and get picked up by the fishermen were left to rot on the bottom. It was such a sad thing to see!
Blast fishing is not allowed in the marine park and is a highly destructive fishing practice. Not only the fish are affected but other marine animals and the reef can be severely damaged also. These highly destructive fishing practices are the strongest threat to the marine environment in the park. The park was established in 1980, initially to protect the Komodo dragon, but its charter expanded to include protection of both marine and terrestrial creatures. With the implementation of the weekly patrol program there has been an 80% decrease in blast fishing in the park but the park is huge and there are not enough resources to patrol the entire park all the time.
In addition to two-day once a week regular patrols the park authorities are working with other local authorities such as the navy and police to enforce regulations and preserve the marine environment. They also hope to involve local communities as their ears and eyes within the park. Our cruise operator was as upset as we were and reported the blast fishing to the park authorities but the fishermen were long gone even when we arrived.
Most of the sites we dove in Komodo National Park were quite pristine and we saw and photographed huge schools of fish, sharks, turtles and manta rays. And even on our first dive at Cannibal Rock we were amazed by the beautiful marine life that we saw once we got over our initial shock from seeing the dead fish. And luckily we did not see damage to the reef itself. Our second dive at Cannibal Rock was on the back side of the rock and there were fewer dead fish and I was amazed at what a beautiful dive site it was.
I left Cannibal Rock with a higher understanding of how terrible blast fishing is. Before I saw for myself I knew it was destructive but having seen this beautiful reef covered with dead fish made it very real. I plan on continuing to support efforts to end destructive fishing practices including blast fishing and shark finning around the world…I hope that you will too.