Indonesian reefs are a valuable natural resource. The Lewtobi Village government, Ile Bura District, East Flores, NTT Province, reaffirmed the importance of keeping the tradition of caring for marine ecosystems through village regulations, appropriately named the ‘Coastal and Marine Protection Regulation’, which were put in place by their ancestors. Lewotoni Village Tarsisius Chief Buto Muda, told The Voice of Flores, that the villagers grow and develop through cultural and ecological bases.
“Our villagers are generally farmers and fishermen – we’re all very close to nature. Though there is a strong tradition of caring for the universe, we, as a village, took up the initiative to ensure this tradition would remain steadfast. This was done through the creation of village regulations that are binding for all villagers. The regulations are preventative measures so that our children and grandchildren will uphold the traditions of caring for the land and sea that have been lived for years and years.”
Tasisius went on to explain how regulation of village coastal and marine protection is assisted by NGO Misool Baseftin, an institution that pay attention to coastal and marine protection. Caring for these ecosystems has a positive impact on the residents as more and more fish are acquired by the fishermen.
“Residents who go down to the sea do not need to sail far to find a lot of fish. On the coast, sea turtles come and lay eggs – there are no residents who take or kill turtle eggs, aside from the one day a year when a turtle is taken as an offering in a traditional ceremony,” Tasisius said.
Fabianus Boli Uran, a Lewtobi villager, explained there was one phrase in the local language, which reads, ‘Lewo rae hojo majen kne’e aitapi’, which explicitly means a turtle lying eggs will be taken as part of offerings, and slaughtered on a statuette named Wato Kea.
This ceremony was formally reported to the East Flores district Fisheries and Marin Service. Though government rules do not permit the killing of sea turtles, an allowance was made for long-standing customary traditions. This tradition is believed to be part of asking for blessings so that the universe will provide good fortune to both farmers and fishermen.
Fabianus also added that in the village of Lewtobi, there was one special clan by the name Uran, which had been entrusted with the preservation of the sea. The tribal heads or elders of this tribe therefore, have the authority to give customary sanctions to residents who damage coral reefs or are caught using poison to catch fish.
Written by Hengky Ola Sura.