The Enduring Fishing Tradition of Bali

The island of Bali is often associated with its vibrant Hindu culture, intricate temples, welcoming locals, and idyllic rice fields. However, there is one tradition that many visitors overlook – the ancient fishing culture that has sustained Balinese communities for generations. Though tourism now dominates the economy, fishing remains deeply ingrained in the island’s daily life, identity, and religious rituals.

Yet this long-standing fishing tradition in Bali may soon vanish as more beachfront development threatens coastal fishing access and risks erasing this cherished heritage. Being mindful when choosing your accommodation during your travels can help preserve this tradition.

The Origins of Fishing in Bali

Fishing has been practised in Bali since the earliest known inhabitants and has become integral not just to livelihoods but to the culture and cosmology of Bali. Because agriculture was historically less productive on the island, fishing provided a vital protein source and became the primary occupation in many seaside villages. Even inland, fish features prominently in ceremonies, dances, architecture, and artisanal crafts. The long history of fishing in Bali is interwoven with stories of gods, temples, and sacred sites along the coast.

Until today, the primary fishing technique is simple line and net fishing, usually done close to shore in a traditional boat called jukung.

Threats to The Fishing Tradition

These days, tourism and development pose the most significant threats to Bali’s fishing tradition. As hotels, villas, shops, and restaurants catering to foreigners gobble up beachfront land, many fishermen lose access to the shoreline, the space needed to launch and land their boats and store their heavy engines.

Worse still, some developments have buried original temples and shrines oriented toward the sea gods. The loss of these spiritual sites severs important links fishermen have to their heritage, and the growth of tourism has drawn many young locals away from traditional livelihoods like fishing into jobs in hotels, retail, and hospitality – industries proven less sustainable during the COVID-19 pandemic and volcano eruptions and earthquakes in 2017/18.

As fishing villages transform into tourist towns, the knowledge passed down across generations about weather patterns, fish populations, boat building, and sacred fishing rituals erodes. Without concerted effort, the deep-rooted fishing tradition in Bali that has persisted for thousands of years may fade within a couple of generations.

Preserving More Than Livelihoods

For many villages, preserving fishing is more than maintaining food supply and income. Fishing binds families together, connects communities to ancestors and gods, and underpins a sense of identity. Thus, losing access to the sea threatens community life and overall well-being.

Furthermore, fishing may offer Bali a sustainable path alongside the growing dependence on tourism. Small-scale traditional fishing that feeds local markets could support self-reliance and food security for generations.

Opportunities to Sustain Traditions

Volunteer Programs Forever aims to preserve Balinese traditions through community initiatives while expanding economic opportunities beyond tourism. By supporting higher education of Balinese children through donations, fundraising, and sharing our mission, you can empower villages to sustain cultural fishing traditions that hotel and restaurant jobs cannot replace in terms of identity, resilience, and community bonds.

Consider starting your own Soul Project or donating to provide vital education – even small contributions go a long way. You can also help by liking and sharing our work on social media to raise awareness about the pressures Balinese fishing villages face today.