FEATURE: A perilous hunt for lobsters

Yogyakarta (The Jakarta Post/ANN) - For over 10 years, seasonal Indonesian fisherman, Tukijan bin Sentono, 42, has been risking his life to catch lobsters. The resident of Luweng Ombo hamlet in Gunung Kidul regency, Yogyakarta, does the perilous work to earn a living.

In early 1996, Tukijan discovered many lobsters on Panjang Island, 5 kilometres from his home, and thought they would yield a handsome income. He gathered a number of fellow fishermen in his village who were intrigued by the idea of trapping lobsters in the area.

The rough terrain they must pass to get to the site had them racking their brains until they devised a simple suspended seat to enable them to cross from a high coastal bank to Panjang Island.

Because the majority of Luweng Ombo residents live in poverty, they were prepared to adopt this extreme method in order to make money. Sharing the cost, they bought the components for the contraption under Tukijan's direction. "The whole setup of the suspended seat cost about 900,000 rupiah [US$93]," said Tukijan.

With great effort, they hauled nylon ropes to extend them over steep coral reefs. At a height of 30 metres above sea level and with a distance of 150 meters between both locations, the ropeway chair offered a daring adventure that began in 1997.

"For a tryout of the suspended seat we first trusted Warsito, because he weighed the least," said the father of one.

"We sell lobsters to collectors on Tepus Beach for 30,000 rupiah [$3.15] per ounce for black lobsters. When they aren't in season and we get only a single lobster weighing two ounces, we just divide the money we receive. If there are three people in our group, each of us only earns 20,000 rupiah for a whole day's work," said Tukijan, almost whispering.

The price of lobsters caught on Panjang Island is indeed promising, but only when the lobster harvest season arrives.

The article was first published in The Jakarta Post on Nov. 21, 2012.

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