This year´s celebration of World Fisheries Day gives us another opportunity to reprise the importance of protecting our fishers and ensuring nutritious, safe, and sustainable seafood on our table. These fishers include Nining and Abdul Harris, a couple based in the East Java town of Pamekasan who are among the 90,000 fishers from across the country who specialize in catching the crab species called rajungan in Bahasa Indonesia. They also include Anderson Maluengseng, a third-generation pole-and-line tuna fisher from Indonesia, and his crew of 35 fishers who are part of an estimated 24,500 Indonesians who fish for yellowfin and skipjack tuna using the traditional pole-and-line technique.
Since 2018, the Ministry of National Development Planning of the Republic of Indonesia (BAPPENAS) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) through the Global Marine Commodities (GMC) Project have collaborated with the Indonesian Blue Swimming Crab Association (APRI) and the Indonesian Pole & Line and Handline Fisheries Association (AP2HI) to accelerate mainstreaming sustainability in the Blue Swimming Crab (BSC) and tuna pole and line fisheries.
As a one of main global producers for fish, Indonesia’s actions and progress in managing its fisheries, to some extent, will always have an impact on world fisheries. For example, in challenging illegal fishing in its waters, Indonesia is contributed to shedding light on an illegal practice that is widely accepted as a key driver of global overfishing, as well as its various links to major human rights violations.
Notably, in the last decades Indonesia also has become one of the major countries that implements fishery improvement projects (FIPs), a multi-stakeholder effort to promote the sustainability of a given fishery (whether or not the fishery intends to pursue ecolabel certification). A FIP identifies the environmental issues that need to be addressed, sets the priority actions to be undertaken and oversees the action plan adopted, which generally covers three aspects: stock health, impact to the environment, and effective management.
During the period of the GMC Project’s work with fisheries industries and the Government of Indonesia, the FIPs are continuing to make a difference in Indonesia and the global fishery landscape. This progress is also noticed by the government.
“The journey of the pole and line tuna fishery towards ecolabel certification is anticipated to generate lessons and best practices as well as motivation for other Indonesian fisheries that also seek to enter global markets for sustainable seafood” said Sri Yanti, Director of Marine Affairs and Fisheries at BAPPENAS, during the development of new five-year National Tuna Management Plan last October 2019.
Another important progress is highlighted by Presidential Regulation No. 18/ 2020 on the National Medium-Term Development Plan (RPJMN) for 2020-2024, where Indonesia will accelerate implementation of Fishery Management Areas (known as Wilayah Pengelolaan Perikanan or WPP). Established by the Fisheries Law No 33/ 2004 which has been revised by Law No 45/ 2009, WPP is identified as a management area for fishing, aquaculture, conservation, research and fisheries development which includes inland waters, archipelago waters, territorial seas, additional zones, and Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone.
Utilising a regional approach, the implementation of WPP as a basis for fisheries development is expected to boost fisheries productivity which in turn optimises sectoral and regional growth. With Indonesia´s relatively diverse marine ecosystem, WPP is viewed as an effective approach to answer the complexity in the fishery and marine sector. Importantly, the WPP-based approach will play a role in providing a platform for integrating and harmonising the roles of at least 26 government agencies that are working on fisheries-related management, including consolidating all other non-public sector stakeholders to collaboratively address the issues through an integrated perspective.
“The WPP based approach utilises “regional led national management” that places regional and local participation as the main input to policy making, while policy makers at the national level play a role in providing guidance and formalizing fisheries management policies. This approach will create synergies, embrace regional characteristics, and reduce conflict”, said Arifin Rudiyanto, Deputy Minister for Maritime Affairs and Natural Resources, Ministry National Development Planning/ BAPPENAS, on a national webinar alongside other Director Generals in the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries, last April 2020, focusing on the transformation of WPP to improve the performance of the fisheries sector.
Then came the global COVID-19 pandemic. Despite having affected the lives of millions of fishers in Indonesia, the Ministry of Marine Affairs of Fisheries reported that the fisheries sector was relatively unaffected economically by COVID-19. Unlike other sectors that experienced supply chain disruptions in the second and third quarter of 2020, the fisheries sector was able to maintain its stability throughout the quarters, and in fact showed a higher export performance compared to the previous year.
This trend gives hope to the sector and will definitely become a foundation to optimise the performance of fisheries as a leverage for other sectors to rebuild, such as logistics, transportation, trade as well as food and consumption.
However, a precautionary approach must be strictly applied. It is widely known that several fish stock in Indonesia’s waters have been either overfished, or maximally sustainably fished, with few being underfished. Additionally, there are looming impacts of climate change which might be more critical given Indonesia’s position on the equator line.
Fortunately, we know that fisheries management works, and Indonesia has the tools to continue the path towards sustainable and productive fisheries. Importantly, Indonesia is also able to make choices to build better fisheries. For instance, in February of 2020, Indonesia launched the Harvest Strategy for BSC for areas around the Java Sea, which contributes nearly 50% of BSC to national production. This harvest strategy— the first of its kind in Indonesia—aims to maintain and/or improve reproductive capacity and ensure the sustainability of the blue swimming crab industry. Next in the process is a harvest strategy for tuna in the archipelagic waters and the updating of eleven fisheries management plans for WPP.
Clearly, Indonesia is the right path in progressing towards better and more sustainable fisheries. But the work is not done yet.
About the Global Marine Commodities Project (GMC)
The GMC Project is an interregional initiative implemented by the Ministries and Bureaus of Fisheries, Production and Planning of Costa Rica, Ecuador, Indonesia and the Philippines, with technical support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), facilitated by the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP) and funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF).