Sat, 08 Apr 2000

Oil spill halts activities of fishermen in Cilacap waters

CILACAP, Central Java (JP): Thousands of fishermen here complained on Friday that they haven't been able to catch any fish following an oil spill by a fuel tanker MT King Fisher last week.

A number of fishermen who fish the waters of Teluk Penyu told The Jakarta Post that they had not caught a single fish since last week, for the spill had not yet been properly dealt with.

"The fish disappear. For small-scale fishermen like us, stopping fishing means disaster for our families," said Sunarto, member of a fishermen organization, Tegal Kamulyan.

An estimate 1,000 barrels of crude oil spilled into the sea after the fuel tanker -- carrying 600,000 barrels of crude oil -- hit a reef on Saturday.

The accident took place at about 3.05 p.m, shortly before the tanker arrived at the Cilacap oil refinery from Tanjung Santan in East Kalimantan.

State oil company Pertamina then deployed some 1,000 local fishermen and paid them Rp 30,000 a day to clean up the spill.

"Yes, we get Rp 30,000 a day for that, but actually we lose because we had to stop fishing for four days," Sunarto said.

According to Sunarto, the fishermen had been suffering in the last few months as they could only earn an average of 30 kilograms of fish a day before the oil spill.

"Only big vessels and trawlers that sail far out at sea can make money," Anto, another fisherman, said.

Pertamina's spokesman in Cilacap Husni Banser stated on Friday that the sea was 70 percent cleared of the spill. "More than 3,000 local fishermen are now deployed. We just don't want to cause the fishermen to suffer more," Husni told the Post by telephone.

Minister of Mines and Energy Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono visited Cilacap on Thursday to inspect the operation to clean the water.

Meanwhile, the Environmental Division Head of Yogyakarta Legal Aid Institute Budi Hartono said on Friday that the institute found serious damage caused by the spill on Cilacap beach because of Pertamina's delayed response.

Budi said the oil spill had spread to Teluk Penyu and Srindil beaches, which are dozens of kilometers apart, damaged the ecosystem and stripped local fishermen of their livelihood.

"Pertamina used modern equipment three days after the incident but the pollution only got worse," he said, as quoted by Antara.

He said Pertamina should be held responsible for the spill and provide compensation for the fishermen.

Police should investigate the accident, he said. (45/sur/jun)