Rationalizing Conservation and Indigenous Customary Fishery

On Friday May 8th at 12:00, Maesa Maukar will defend her masters thesis in Coastal and Marine Management at the University Centre of the Westfjords. The thesis presentation is open to the public on the University Centre YouTube Channel due current COVID-19 outbreak restrictions in place in Iceland.

The thesis is titled, „What are you whaling for? Rationalizing Conservation and Indigenous Customary Fishery: Case Study of Customary Fishery of Lamalerans in Indonesia’s Savu Sea.“

The thesis advisor is Dr. Bradley W. Barr, Visiting Faculty at the University Centre of the Westfjords. The external reader is Dr. Julian Clifton, Senior Lecturer at the University of Western Australia.


Indonesia is the largest archipelagic country in the world with its waters covering more than eighty percent of the country’s total area. It is also home to around 70 million indigenous peoples of multi-ethnic groups. Indonesian waters are facing environmental threats such as illegal fishing, pollution, overfishing, and climate change. Marine conservation is considered to be an important measure to address these issues. The large marine area along with its mix of the population’s multiple ethnicities, has proven to be a challenge to establishing marine conservation in the country.

Indonesia’s Savu Sea, located within the coral triangle, has been providing more than sixty percent of fisheries products to the Province of Nusa Tenggara Timur including the indigenous community of Lamalera. This study focuses on and offers observations regarding the customary fishery practice of the Lamalerans and an analysis of the implementation of conservation policy, especially in its relation to the practice. Ethnographic study was conducted to understand the customary fishery practice in the community, while discourse analysis was applied to highlight the language of traditional customary fishery from both Lamaleran community and government officials’ perspectives. The result of the study highlights the issues faced especially related to the management framework imposed by central government that involves: (1) uncertain legal status of the community’s customary fishery practice; (2) unclear definitions of terminology in the law; (3) rigid laws being implemented that may not appropriately accommodate many indigenous practices in the country. The study concludes that a fundamental understanding of the underlying customary institution is paramount in effectively implementing integrated management of marine conservation and customary practices.

Maesa mauka defends her masters thesis on conservation and indigenous customary fishery.