SSCBC Members Rescue Indonesian Fisherman

Cempedak Rescue, Indonesia.

Here’s a story we think is worth sharing with you all and one that reflects what is truly important in life.

For a group of friends on a recent visit to the remote Cempedak Island in Indonesia, fate intervened in a most unusual way. Predominantly Members of SSCBC, the group of 14 visited the tiny (only 20 villas) private eco-resort to celebrate the big birthday of one of their number.

Not long after sitting and enjoying lunch on one of first of four days on the island, an eagle eyed (heroic?) member of the gang spotted a figure in the water some distance off shore. Thinking that perhaps it was one of the guests who had taken a paddleboard or OTB craft and come to grief in the strong current the staff were alerted. Although the staff had not missed any of the guests they duly paddled out in a kayak to see if help was needed.

As it turned out, the person in the water desperately needed help. It was not a guest but instead a local ‘sea gypsy’ fisherman whose small wooden boat had sunk while he was out fishing. Sea gypsy ethnic communities are common in the area and live either on the water on a basic form of stilted houseboat or on the shoreline of other islands in the vicinity. Sea gypsies have a meagre subsistence lifestyle and rely on their catch to survive. This fisherman was unable to get to shore and had been in the water for two hours clinging to a plastic bucket before he was spotted.

As his rescuer got to him, the fisherman was barely able to keep his head above water. He had to be hauled onto the kayak, completely exhausted and weak from fighting the choppy waves and the current.

On one view the fisherman was extremely lucky to have not lost his life in the water, however the incident meant that his sole means of income was gone. Fishing is the only avenue a sea gypsy fisherman has to support himself and his family.

Not surprisingly, the next day the group was keen to know how the fisherman was faring. They heard he was recovering, grateful but distressed at losing his livelihood with little option to rebound. The group’s natural instinct was to help in some way. After discussions and with the support of the Cempedak Island management team on how best to assist, an arrangement of mutual obligation was brokered. The management team felt strongly that a ‘give back’ agreement was the best outcome for all parties. In short, the fisherman received a new boat funded fully by the group ($700 in total – a mere $100 per couple). In return he will, for an agreed time, collect plastic waste and discarded ghost net pollution from the sea bringing it to Cempedak Island for recycling in their advanced facility. All in all an excellent result all round!