Esterlita Jabu says she still remembers the gut-wrenching horror of hearing explosions from blast fishers near the beach where she played as a child with her friends.

“Not only you could hear it, but also you could feel the vibrations,” she tells Mongabay during a visit to her village on the island of Mutus in Indonesia’s Raja Ampat archipelago. Today, 33-year-old Esterlita is a member of the island’s community volunteer group that patrols the waters for illegal and destructive fishing.

Methods such as blast fishing and cyanide fishing flourished in the waters of Raja Ampat since the 1980s in response to rising commercial seafood demand.

By 2006, illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing accounted for 20 per cent of the total reef fish catch. These practices have also been blamed by local fishers for causing declines in fish catch and posing the greatest threat to fisheries resources.

Indonesia’s marine area covers 5.8 million square kilometres (2.2 million square miles) and is home to the highest coral reef fish diversity in the world. High levels of monitoring, surveillance and enforcement are needed to effectively prevent destructive fishing and protect marine resources, experts say.