Skip to main content

Documentary Examines Shark Finning in East Lombok, Indonesia

By Scuba Diving Editors | Created On February 21, 2017
Share This Article :

Documentary Examines Shark Finning in East Lombok, Indonesia

scene from Fish Full of Dollars

Documentary filmmaker Adrienne Gittus explores the complexities of ending shark finning in rural Indonesia.

Adrienne Gittus/Soulwater Productions

As documentary filmmaker Adrienne Gittus explains, “A Fish Full of Dollars started with just a single visit to Tanjung Luar’s fish market as part of an excursion organized by the Gili Eco Trust. "I really didn’t know what to expect. When I saw the extent of the market, the numbers and variety of sharks and other rays, and even mobula and a juvenile dolphin, I was dismayed that creatures I was so excited to see underwater were lined up before me in a gruesome parade. It horrified me that this was happening so close to where I lived and worked in a close-knit diving community. I felt I had to do something to try and make people aware of what was happening.

“Although filming the sharks and rays being butchered was heartbreaking, I forced myself to turn off my emotional reactions and focus on the job of filming. It was only when I began to edit and had to repeatedly watch scenes of sharks being finned, gill plates being cut from rays, and the carcasses being butchered, that emotion surfaced … tears rolled down my face while I worked.”

But as Gittus was to discover, the situation is a lot more complex than Indonesia’s role as the No. 1 shark-fishing nation in the world. “There is a lot more to this story than simply some fishermen doing an evil trade in shark fins,” says Gittus. “In Tanjung Luar, rural Lombok’s biggest fish market, sharks are a targeted species, where despite worldwide trends shifting away from shark finning, the trade persists. Tanjung Luar is a village filled with contradictions – riotous color and charismatic people, living on the poverty line in squalid conditions. They are struggling to live a comfortable life, but appear to live it happily. Around 5,500 people live in this small, cramped community. This is a place with no running water and no internet, simple food dependent on the local fishing catch … and everybody knows everybody. Strangers are welcomed, and followed by children like the pied piper, curiosity overcoming their apprehensiveness."

In the end, says Gittus, that “although Tanjung Luar is a horrifying place to my western sensitivities, and my heart full of tender spots for sharks and rays, A Fish Full of Dollars exposes the humanity of fishermen simply trying to make a living and feed their families. It highlights the many complexities in this issue whose participants have compelling stakes. We need to act to provide fishermen with education and alternatives before there are no sharks left to be fished, and it is just too little too late, a devastating outcome for the ocean and the people whose lives depend on the sea.”


scene from trailer Fish Full of Dollars

The Tanjung Luar story is a complex one — ending shark finning here must be done in a way so that the villagers have a different, sustainable source of income.

Adrienne Gittus/Soulwater Productions

Making the film was a labor of love for Gittus. “Although I made a short film after that first visit, I felt that I had only scratched the surface of a very complicated issue and felt compelled to continue,” she says. “I returned twice more for additional footage of different species, as well as interviews with local fishermen, a buyer, and a fisherman who had converted to become captain of a snorkeling tour boat with the Dorsal Effect. Four years and thousands of hours later, A Fish Full of Dollars was born.”

Visit Soulwater Productions on Facebook