Saturday, December 12, 2009

Less Village Part 2

Hello everyone. So let's continue on, to my trip to Less Village. One of my goals for the trip was to meet up with the two stars of "Fish Don't Cry", Gombal - the main character and Rusman - the little boy catching fish in the beginning of the video.

I arrived at Less around 2 pm and it looked deserted. The fishermen were still out and there were only few kids and grandmothers at the compound. After talking to some of the elders, we found that Gombal was out fishing and Rusman lived nearby. We also heard rumors that Rusman was seen near his house not far from the compound. After some searching and asking around, we found him relaxing with his wife at their humble home.

I have uploaded the following videos on youtube. Go check it out.

Less Village video 1
Less Village video 2
Less Village video 3

Rusman had grown up and married, even expecting a baby! Note the "humble" home in the background. It is true that the poor fishermen only make little, that most of the money is made by exporters. I hate to say that since I am an exporter, but it is true. Personally I always try to give a little extra to help out, and in these neck of woods, little good gesture can go a long way!

After talking with him for a little time, he offered us coconut - cool!

Rusman ran up the coconut tree with ease. Dude was like a monkey!

After reaching the fruit, it is just a matter of hacking it off and letting it fall.

Rusman definitely has done this before!

Fresh coconut juice. Just in case some of you don't know, coconut "milk" is not the same as the juice inside. The milk comes from the meat. The meat is scraped off and squeezed to get the "milk" out. If you don't live in the tropics, you probably didn't know this. Coconut milk is used for cooking in many South East Asian countries, especially in Malaysia and Thailand.

After drinking all of the juice, the coconut is cut in half and the meat can be scraped off with a spoon - yummy! The first time I had fresh coconut like this was back in the Tonga.

Rusman showing off his barrier net for catching ornamental fish. What he knows will be passed on to other youngsters in his village. Not much opportunity for the local kids, so many of them will become like Rusman and catch fish for a living.

Back at Less, Rusman on the right and Awang, my driver and translator. I have been teaching Awang on corals for the past year. I hope to be able to send him to look for corals for me one day.

What future holds for these kids? Not much. These guys will probably follow in the footsteps of their fathers and brothers and become fishermen. Some will be catching food fish, while others will focus on aquarium fish.

While we were waiting for Gombal to return, one of the locals had returned from a day of fishing.

The rewards for a full day of fishing for food fish - a lonely skipjack tuna, barely enough to cover cost of living for his family for a day. I believe this lonely fish will be used as food for the family.

Note the hand made sail. Most of the food fishing boats had these things installed. I guess in case the engine dies out, the sail can be used to get home.

Another food fishing boat coming to beach. That lady is the wife of the fisherman who had just returned. Here she helps with the round logs, while the husband pulls the boat in.

I was surprised to see so many fish on this boat! About a dozen mahi mahi and a half dozen of tuna. Wow this fishermen must have been lucky to catch all these fish! It turned out that the fish were caught way out in the ocean. It took 8 hours to get to the fishing grounds! Basically the guy hasn't slept for a long time, but his reward is very good. Later in the evening, the fish will be taken to town and sold at a market.

One of the tunas, was a small yellowfin. Sometimes a big 50 kilo (100lbs plus) one will be caught. A fish this size would be taken to Denpasar (capital) and sold to exporters.

High tech equipment is used to catch fish!

Just then another food fishing boat came in. We were told that the guys catching ornamental fish must be having good luck as they had not returned. They will catch as much as they can before coming home. If bad weather or simply cannot find the fish, they would come home early.

What a surprise, it wasn't until I was shooting a video that I realized Gombal was in front of me! I recognized him by his scar on his left chest. He looked much older and not as thin. Wow what a stroke of luck, as I needed to get going to East Java. Coral suppliers were hounding us as they had prepared lots of goodies just for "Mr. Eddy", as I am called here. The suppliers wanted to us to hurry up and see what they had prepared for me. Always a good thing to hear!

And I wasn't going to leave until I met Rusman and Gombal! I hope to see these guys again and see them in action!


Ok guys that is it for today. I hope you have enjoyed the post and videos. Less Village still has over 100 fishermen catching ornamental fish everyday. It would have been exciting to see what fish were caught but my coral suppliers were waiting. One day I hope to set up shop at Less
Village and check out newly caught fish everyday!


Thursday, December 3, 2009

Less Village Part 1

Hello everyone. A few weeks ago, I was able to stop by Less Village in Northern Bali, on my way to East Java. Here are some hi lights from that trip.

I also shot some videos at Less but can't seem to upload because of bad internet connection. I hope to have them uploaded on youtube for the second part of this series.

So this is the main road that the little boy Rusman was seeing running in the beginning of the video "Fish Don't Cry". The little road to the left leads to the fishing village. Finding the village was easy because of the conspicuous sign.

And here is a close up of the little billboard. I believe Pt. Bahtera Lestari was the export company that went out of business.

A few hundred yards on the small road and we were at Less! One of the first things I saw as we drove in was this little hut, looked to be a little resting area with tables.

Cool Balinese stone sculpture flanked by two coconut trees.

Here is a close up view of the small cement structure, not sure what it's supposed to be and forgot to ask!

So this is how the boats are anchored down. The hull of the boat rests on round logs. This makes it easy to launch the boats since gravity will pull it downhill to the water.

The boat is anchored down with rope that keeps it from rolling back into the sea. You can see how the pulley device is used to haul the boat up from the water. Much better than using sweat as we saw in the video. Note the inner tube. That thing is filled with oxygen and is used to bag the fresh caught fish during transport back to mainland. Clever idea as no need for bulky oxygen tanks and expensive regulators. After all the oxygen is used up, it is simply refilled again.

Due to Balinese holiday, not all the fishermen were out this particular day. Here you can see several boats still tied up.

The tide was low when I arrived and the water was pretty clear.

Some of the boats were equipped for fishing eating fish. It looked like many fishermen take turns catching aquarium fish and food fish. This large net looked to be used to scoop up food fish, too big as a scooper net for aquarium fish.

For sure this decompression bucket is for ornamental fish. A zipper is sewed in to make easier to open and close.

It looks like aquaculturing is still going on at Less! These are coral plugs. The plug part is made separate from the long base. The base is cemented on after both pieces have fully dried.

A rusty old hook on one of the food fish boats. I wonder how many fish this hook has caught?

So this was interesting! A floating oasis made from bamboo and coconut trees. This thing is designed to attract birds that is looking for fish. So the fishermen tow this thing out to the reefs and lets it drift. They stay back from a distance and watch for birds. If enough birds show up and land on this floating paradise, the fishermen quickly go to that spot. Theoretically the birds are attracted to the fish below, both ornamental and food fish is found in this matter. I guess it really works as there were several of these things in the waters. Another trick of the trade. We would call this "fish finder" in the US!

Definitely using nets to catch fish, nice to see!

"Wilbur" was staring at me while I was busy taking pictures. This little guy will probably end up being roasted for a wedding - quick find Charlotte!

So this is like where the fishermen can wash up and change after diving. The little door on the far right was the bathroom, or toilet as we say here in Indo.

I was lucky, it had a sit down toilet. I guess I'm too Americanized for squat bowls, I really don't like those. The local food earlier was not adjusting too well in my stomach! Good thing I always carry toilet paper in my pocket, but the flush didn't work so I had to go get water from Northern Bali bay!

Couple of aquarium fish posters for reference.

Fish holding building, but looked to be empty.

There was another building next to the one above. This was also empty but with lots of tanks and a packing table. There was a fish exporting company that used to run out of Less, and my friend who used to have a wholesale operation in the US used to buy from them. Then management changed and everything went downhill. My friend stopped buying from them and they went out business. It turns out that this place has been vacant for a long time. Perhaps one day I will start up doing fish from this facility, easily can fix everything up. I can provide the healthiest net caught fish from Indonesia. Working with over 100 fishermen and suppliers at Less, I think I could really make it work!

I spotted another building and this place had some tanks running. Not much fish as I heard that the suppliers already had taken the fish to the buyers. Here is how it works. At Less Village, you have four suppliers that buy fish from the fishermen. The suppliers take the fish to Denpassar (four hours away) to sell to the exporters. Some individual fishermen also sell directly to the exporters as well.

Up this little hill was this huge empty swimming pool sized concrete pond. Like many things, it looked to be abandoned for a long time. Perhaps it was used to house brood stock for consumption fish or something sometime ago (silly me forgot to ask). But as soon as I saw the pond, I thought about sharks. This pond probably has a drain that directly goes out to the sea. Since baby sharks are high in demand and they are only available during certain months, if I was doing fish, I would keep them in here for quarantine. Baby black tips and white tips are popular even among local aquarists. Can't wait to start something up at Less!

And lastly, man's best friend taking a nap in the shade of a coconut tree. Reminded me of my brindle boxer (my baby) back at home in the US. Some people ask me how I got my email address to be and why. I tell them "joyluck is the name of my dog. I found her in the streets when she was a puppy at 2 in the morning. I named her joyluck because she brings me "joy and luck". 2000 was the year I found her and "tp" stands for Tropical Paradise, my lfs at the time.


Ok guys that is it for today, I hope you enjoyed the pictures and info of Less Village. Coming up in part 2 of this series, I get to meet Gombal, the main character in "Fish Don't Cry" and the little boy Rusman. Rusman is a grown man now and has a pregnant wife!


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Less Village "Fish Don't Cry" Video Part 4 Final

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. I wish I was back at home in the states with my wife to enjoy all the food and watch football on this turkey day, but I am not so fortunate. Many of you think that I have the dream job, but at times I wish I was back at home with my family in California. Ok enough of self pity!

Here is the last part of the video. I just came back from visiting Less Village and have lots of photos and some videos, and I will be posting them on the next write up. I hope you have enjoyed and learned something from this video, I'm sure I did. Cheers - Eddie.

Less Village "Fish Don't Cry" Video Part 4

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Less Village "Fish Don't Cry" Video Part 3

Hello everyone. Here is the third part of "Fish Don't Cry" video.

I will be flying out to Bali tomorrow and will go visit Less Village for an update. I will stop by on my way to East Java for corals. Will be posting the last part of the video and pictures of Less Village when I return to Jakarta in about four or five days. Cheers -Eddie.

Less Village "Fish Don't Cry" Video Part 3

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Less Village "Fish Don't Cry" Video Part 2

Hello everyone. Here is the second part of this video series.

Less Village "Fish Don't Cry" Video Part 2

For more info behind Less Village, Alex from Hong Kong has posted this link. Thanks Alex!


Thursday, November 5, 2009

Less Village "Fish Don't Cry" Video Part 1

Hello everyone. Sorry it has been so long since the last post. I have been busy island hopping searching for corals. I tried to upload this video many times during my travels, but the internet connection in Indonesia is in the stone ages! I tried to do a post on this video back in March of this year, but gave up due to bad connection. The video is part 1 of 4. I had to break it up into four parts due to its 32 minute length (youtube allows only maximum of 9 minutes or so per video). Below is the text from March of this year under the post "There's Hope". I will be posting the second part in the coming days (if internet allows).

Less Village "Fish Don't Cry" Video Part 1

Ok guys, for today's topic, I would like to talk about a local fishing village that came together to make a difference. They went from cyanide to net catching. The place is called Les Village up in Northern Bali. A video was made to document the process and is called "Fish don't cry". I obtained this video from Robert at Aquatic Specialties and Pets (wholesaler), my friend who has closed down since. The guys from Les Village actually came to the US to visit Robert. This video was subsequently given to him by the Les Village guys. Robert did good business with them for a while, but after a management change, everything went downhill. Robert asked me to go visit Les when I got to Bali.

It turned out that my current fish exporter friend in Bali were buying from Les Village. But the fish were coming in terrible. We decided to make the trip and go see them. It was kind of sad seeing the poor facility, nothing like the scenes I saw in the video. There were not even holding tanks. The fish were being kept in plastic bags. My friend eventually ended up sending them used glass tanks to hold the fish, and the quality drastically improved.

Unfortunately, all of my pictures from this trip is in my old lap top computer. I accidentally forgot to transfer those pictures to my new lap top. So for now, enjoy the video. I will be making another follow up trip to Les soon and I will update with lots of pictures. You must watch this video as it is truly inspiring. One day when I have lots of money and time, I would like to promote "Les" type of operation all over Indonesia. With money and training, it can be done - there is hope!

The biggest problem that I see to the environment in our trade, is not the collection of wild corals. It is the use of cyanide by the fishermen. For every coral collector, you probably have a hundred fish catching guys. Can you imagine the destruction? Then there is another big group of fishermen who use cyanide to catch consumption fish - live groupers for the seafood trade.


Friday, October 16, 2009

Wild Cherrypicked Corals 2!

Hello everyone. So after uploading the pictures from the last post, I got a flood of e-mails asking for the corals. From hobbyists to importers, they were all excited. Unfortunately, all the corals from the last post and this post have been exported already. Some are from six months ago. So if you are one of my customers looking at this blog, please remember these corals I no longer have.

I once joked around how I wanted to name our future children after corals. I told my wife how about naming our future son "Acropora", laughing. Surprisingly she came back and said that she would be ok if we had a daughter and named her "Cynarina". I was like, wow Cynarina is a beautiful coral and maybe a beautiful name! Can you imagine, as she is growing up, "yah my parents named me after a coral, how geeky is that"! But only a reefer would know such things, others only would think that it is a unique name. I'm going to think about this more seriously when the time comes.

Meanwhile lets have a look at one of most sought after and beautiful corals in the reefs, the Cynarina lacrymalis, also known as button or meat corals because they expand into huge masses when fully opened. The one pictured above was a exceptional case in beauty and in size. It was the biggest cynarina I have ever seen, and the most beautiful too. The skeleton itself must have been at least four inches across, big for a cynarina. The color was insane, metallic pink/red! Probably will never see another one again - unbelievable!

You can always tell the difference between a cynarina and a donut by the translucent tissue. Normally the large set of teeth can be seen through the tissue on the cynarinas. The teeth on the donuts are even and can't be seen through the meat.

The color are always green and pink to orange. This unusual one has both pink and green!

A rare set of twins. It is possible that this used to be one coral, then it split into two.

In the past Cynarinas lacrymalis have been mistaken for a close relative, the donuts - also sometimes known as meat corals. I can see why as certain cynarinas do look very similar to the donuts. The above one is an exception in that the tissue was not translucent, thus making it look more like a donut than ever!

For a long time this other meat coral was known as a Scolymia. Then the fish and wildlife started recognizing it as a cynarina sp. It caused all kinds of headaches for the exporters, as even the fish and wildlife officers weren't quite sure. One thing about the fish and wildlife in the US, if they are not sure they confiscate it. If you argue, then you get more in trouble. Any exporter or importer reading this would certainly understand what I'm talking about. Now recently this coral has been "officially" recognized as "Acanthophyllia desheysiana". We will see how long that will last. Acanthophyllia desheysiana is an old term that is synonymous with Cynarina lacrymalis.

These Acanthophyllias (donut corals) are relatively common, but the colors are normally brown to green. This multicolored specimen came from South Sulawesi waters.

Unfortunately, super quality specimens like this metallic red one is getting harder to find. It is funny to hear from people saying that there are plenty of these quality donuts around, that they used to get them in huge quantities, and they can't understand why they can't get them anymore. I tell them "duh", that was ten years ago! I always tell everyone that this coral is way under priced worldwide, especially in Asia. Well, when the stock really dries up then maybe they will start to rethink. Asian countries are really lucky and spoiled when it comes to corals. Corals are more readily available and they are used to buying cheap and selling cheap.

I once read an article by Julian Sprung about these donut corals. He was talking about reproduction. He thought that these corals could propagate by splitting, but never had witnessed or seen or have pictures. Well Julian, if you are reading this, here is your proof. As a matter of fact, when these corals came in from the fishermen in various stages of splitting, I immediately thought about the article from Sprung. All the specimens were huge in size and could open up as big as a dinner plate when happy. All were collected in the same area in murky deep waters. They start as normal round shaped donuts (thus name donut coral).

My guess is that after they get to a certain size (in this case, fully mature for sure), the skeleton starts to pinch. Note this specimen has three mouths total. Perhaps it will split into three, only time can tell.
And here is one where the splitting is almost complete. You can clearly see the separate corals that it will become. It is incredible as the skeleton is like three inches pus thick from top to bottom and four or five inches across. I just can't imagine how long it would take to finally break off from its mother. How can the skeleton of this size pinch itself off? Nature is surely amazing!

Here is a close up of the mother. I think she will certainly be happy when her daughter finally breaks off and leaves the nest, as they say - or in this case, let her be!

Sometimes corals can get tricky to identify. Many look similar and identifying them even to their genus, never mind the species, can be difficult. Corals from the family faviidae are especially confusing. Even I have a hard time sometimes differentiating differences as they all look alike! Let's take a look at two species from this family that drives me crazy, favia and favites. Basically, the difference is that favites have walls that are shared. This means that around the corallite, the skeleton wall is shared with other corallites. Favias have their own walls. Besides this, there is nothing else that separates the two genus. Color scheme are the same and growth pattern is the same. The coral above is a favites, although some of the walls surrounding the corallites appear to be independent. This is why it is so difficult to id sometimes. Just so you know, the famous "war corals" in the US are a favites species, Favites pentagona to be exact.

Sometimes we get lucky and the coral is easy to id. Clearly you can see the sharing of the walls on this favites! One quick way to remember the difference between a favia and favites is to always remember that if the walls are shared or joined "together" that it is a favi"t"es. t as in together, you get it? This little trick was taught to me by an old timer and coral master!

To the casual observer, this favia appears to be the same coral as the previous favites. But look carefully and you can see the walls are not joined together!

This Favia veroni is much easier to identify!

Typical colors of the faviidae are green and red. Sometimes cool specimens in purple or blue appear.

Strange favia color morph!

Pink purple favias are not common. This one is exceptionally nice, it has golden eyes!

Guess what this faviidea is? If you guessed montastrea, then you are going to Disneyland!

One of the holy grails of fungias, the famous red morph. These red ones have become extremely rare and I haven't seen one in months. Everyone wants but seems like they don't exist anymore!

Very nice green orange fungia. Normally the colors are solid orange, but I like these hybrid color morphs.

Look at this crazy one of a kind orange fungia! It didn't always look like this, it colored up under our halides - nice!

Orange with green polyps is another morph that is not common!

And of course one of my favorites - the Ricordea yuma! Beautiful is all I can say.

Huge red yuma will hi lite any aquarium!

Just one word, gorgeous! Orange green metallic yuma is a must for the serious collector!

Strange and beautiful multicolor yumas are not common!

Green and orange with a white stripe - nice!

Blue with green rim - super nice!

And finally let's talk about one of the most popular corals in the trade - the zoanthids and palythoas. Upon my first trip to South Sulawesi (Makassar) I discovered one real red special zoanthid species. It only had about ten heads on a small rock and the heads were scattered around. I was really shocked by the beauty of this special zoanthid. I asked the supplier if he could get more. The supplier said no problem and asked how many I wanted. I was excited and told them about fifty pieces would be nice. He called his fishermen on the spot and told me he would have two hundred pieces the next day. I was like wow, this is going to be a good trip!

The following day I went to see the supplier the "two hundred" zoos. Of course I was disappointed as there were none and was promised the next day. I went around the other suppliers and couldn't find none of these unique zoos either. It turned out that the fishermen never collected these, as no exporter would buy them. They only having minimum heads on a rock, the suppliers would get scolded by the exporters for sending them these "junk polyps".

The following day I got a call saying that the fishermen had collected two hundred of these special red zoos. I was excited and hurried my way to the supplier. Of course again I was disappointed as in front of me, there sit hundreds of orange zoanthids. They were nice but not the special ones. The supplier and fishermen couldn't tell the difference. Still I bought fifty pieces to support my supplier for trying to get me the pieces. From then on, I showed all of the suppliers the elusive rare zoanthid (I call them Makassar special zoos) and to find them. Some fishermen even came from the islands and I showed them the zoos.

Well, it turns out that they are actually rare and now the fishermen collect them when they see it. Before they didn't even bother as no one wanted them. Thanks to me, these Makassar special zoos have become famous and are now highly sought after. Now the exporters are always asking for these pieces. The prices went up, from no one wanting them to a big chunk of change. This is exactly what happened with the Acan maximas. These zoos in the US are selling per polyp with fancy names for big bucks!

There are several color morphs of the Makassar specials. The following and the one above are samples that I have ran into. There are more, just can't seem to find them in my picture database at the moment.

For some reason, these special zoos are mostly found with few heads. This tells me that they are super slow growers and not a good candidate for farming. Also another characteristic of this zoo is that they are 75% of the times found on old dead euphyllia or branching lobo skeletons!

This morph of my Makassar special zoo is known as the "Sopranos". Under heavier actinics and halides, the centers appear more green. This little zoanthid colony shares the same rock with a small leather coral and a small bubble coral - a triple combo- way cool!

One of the famous morphs from Makassar is the red speckled, I call it. This is a gorgeous zoathid color morph. Sometimes I find green blue morphs of this, very nice! Note these zoos are growing on dead euphyllia skeleton.

Another special red ones starting to open up.

Ok these blue palys are not from Makassar, rather from West Java. One way to tell the difference between zoanthid and a palythoa is the size. For simple purposes, if the heads are big, then you can conclude that they are a palythoa. If the heads are small, then it is a zoanthid species. This works for most of the time, not all the time. Another difference is the length of the skirts. If they are long and wavy, then it is a zoanthid. If it is short and chubby, then most likely it is a palythoa.

Nice green zoanthid colony with a few light blue palys!

So this zoanthid is know as "people eaters" in the US. I have a secret supplier that can get me metallic red ones with bright green mouths! Normally these come in dull brown.

Nice red palys with unusual centers. Makes me laugh at times, as I see some websites in the US selling single heads mounted on a plug as "aquacultured", claiming that they are worth $50 a head because they have been aquacultured. Yah right! Frag up a colony and sell them as frags, like everyone else does! Let the real hobbyists do the farming.

Unusual pattern on a zoanthid colony. The colors are not so exciting but the patterns are!


Ok guys that is it for today. I apologize for not updating sooner. Internet has been the big problem for me. As a matter of fact, it is raining cats and dogs, as we say in the US right now in Jakarta. And of course the internet is out too. I will have uploaded when the internet comes back online.

I hope you have enjoyed the post and have learned something new, as I always try to share what I know and have experienced. "I strive to make a difference in this hobby"!


Aquaculture Northern Bali

November Corals Collection Part. 1

November Corals Collection Part. 2

Aquaculture - November Shipment

Coral Showcase - September 2008 Inventory

Holding Facility's Corals Collection Showcase 2007