Jul 21 2008

Things Get Worse at Padang Padang, Bali: Environmental Tragedy

Published by at 10:12 am under Indonesia,Travel

News broke last week that a missing Taiwanese fishing boat suspected of illegal fishing practices ran aground on the reef at the World-class wave, Padang Padang in Bali, Indonesia. The captain and crew fled in the night and boat the sat on the reef, and sat. The swell was completely flat for a few days, an ideal time to extract this boat from the reef and avert a potential disaster. Well, the opportunity to remove the boat came and went. Local officials made little effort to extract the boat. They actually tried to use a couple of Balinese fishing boat to pull it off the reef at high tide. Well, turns out they arrived late and if anyone has been to Bali, you would know that it would take about 100 Balinese fishing boats to pull that thing off the reef. As of the most recent swell, the boat was pounded onto the inner reef, puncturing her hull and spilling oil and fuel on the reef and across the line-up. See images and story below (from Surfline.com).

Fishing Boat Runs Aground on Padang Reef - Surfbreak in Bali

Fishing Boat Runs Aground on Padang Reef - Surfbreak in Bali

During a week of uncharacteristic, lake-like flatness, a plan to remove the boat from the reef was put together by the Marine Police and an operation was scheduled for Thursday when the tides would be highest. With a large westerly swell forecasted for Friday morning, it was a one-shot deal. Wednesday evening on the low tide ropes and buoys would be affixed to the boat and Thursday morning at 6am several large fishing boats were to be coordinated on site and tow the boat off of the reef on the incoming tide. This did not happen. On Wednesday night two of the fishermen who were affixing the lines and buoys were injured, one of them hospitalized, and word got back to the rest of the fleet that it was too dangerous to attempt.

Thursday morning dawned with ideal flat conditions and a beach full of hopeful surfers and lifeguards waiting to rush out and help affix the ropes to the boats for towing. At 7am the information was released that the boats were not coming and a group of surfers immediately rushed off to the port in Jimbarran to plead with the police and fishermen to act quickly and get the boats on site. After two hours of negotiations, the boats left port and arrived on site 45 minutes later.

By the time the ropes were set and boats were in formation to attempt to tow the Ho Tsai Fa off of the reef the tide had already turned and it was too late. Chris Moore from the Role Foundation was one of the people who spent the morning swimming in diesel and wading through shin-deep rotten sardines and diesel sludge. “At one point we did move the boat, but it was just for one moment. We were just too late. If we were just one hour earlier, or had we been able to use a Tug Boat, we would have been able to pull the boat off.”

By all accounts the operation was a huge disappointment. We missed our window of opportunity to pull the boat off of the reef and its fate was sealed by nightfall as swell filled into the area. By Friday morning, there was 6-foot tubes breaking over the boat and long lines from the Southern Indian Ocean pushed the Ho Tsai Fa onto the inner reef and ruptured the hull.

Friday and Saturday, the same group of concerned surfers who had been trying so hard to get the boat towed off of the reef continued to work at what is now a clean up and containment mission. The Role Foundation, as well as representatives from surfing companies, and local surfers have been doing their best, with limited manpower and resources to remove as much oil and fuel from the boat, as well as anything that can be taken off of the boat now, before a larger swell hits on Monday.

“The situation is not good,” says Michael O’Leary, director of the Role Foundation. “We are doing our best to contain this mess, but with a large swell forecasted on Monday we are worried this boat is going to break into pieces. We have a long road ahead of us with this if Padang Padang and the surrounding areas are ever going get cleaned up.”

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