Cyanide fishing is destroying both unique coral ecosystems and human lives in the Coral Triangle.
Compressor diving, often in conjunction with cyanide fishing, remains a common practice amongst the Bajau Laut despite being unsustainable, illegal and highly dangerous. Young Bajau men, and often children, will routinely dive to depths of sixty metres with air pumped down to them through a hose pipe and a regulator – with no knowledge of the dangers inherent in diving to such depths they often ascend far to quickly resulting in nitrogen build up and the bends. Compressor diving is one of the main causes of unnatural death amongst the Bajau communities I have visited
Driven largely by China’s insatiable appetite for live reef fish, children as young as ten are routinely diving to depths of 30/40 meters, breathing air that is pumped down to them through a hose, and paralyzing fish using a lethal mixture of potassium cyanide.
If the fish have been caught using cyanide they are also injected with tetracycline in order to reduce the mortality rate. The antibiotic can stay in a fish’s system for up to a week. Wakatobi, Indonesia.
The use of cyanide is crippling precious coral ecosystems whilst the associated use of compressors is crippling its practitioners. Decompression sickness (the bends) and compressor-related accidents are commonly cited as being the primary cause of premature death in marine communities throughout the Coral Triangle.
Potassium cyanide is squirted directly at target fish species such as grouper or Napoleon wrasse, paralyzing them and enabling them to be collected alive. The cyanide then gets in to currents and will travel for miles along a reef wall, killing coral and wreaking havoc on marine life.
Ibu Ani looks on as her son, Ramdan, forages the reef for clams. Since Ani’s husband died of the bends whilst compressor diving, she has relied on her son to support her during the months they spend at sea together
About James Morgan
James is a multi award-winning film director and photojournalist. His in-depth photographic features have appeared in National Geographic, The Guardian, BBC, Sunday Times and many others, while his film work spans features, documentaries, commercials and music videos with clients ranging from Sony and Adidas to Vice and Mercedes Benz. James is represented by both Panos Pictures and Getty Images in London and is a Fellow of the International League of Conservation Photographers. Find out more about James and his work.