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OPINION: Paradox of Tuna Policy

By HENDRA SUGANDHI

December 3, 2016 11:40 GMT+7 

Over the last two years, decisive actions by Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pujiastuti in upholding sovereignty over the territory of Indonesia and the attempt to eradicate illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing through the sinking of foreign vessels that were engaged in it have been very much appreciated.

With the expulsion of illegal fishing vessels from the Fisheries Management Region of the Republic of Indonesia (WPPNRI), fish stocks have been recovering for two years, with the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry claiming they have increased from 7.31 million tons in 2013 to 9.93 million tons in 2015. This opportunity certainly should be optimally utilized.

The absence of strategy

Until now, there has been no realistic mapping, no devising of strategies and no setting of total allowable catches by the ministry to determine the production capacity of tuna ships operating in the WPPNRI, the Indonesian Exclusive Economic Zone (ZEEI), or on the high seas. The prevailing action plan is insufficient for implementing Presidential Instruction No. 7/2016, which has so far been in effect for three months without any actions to increase the production levels of the tuna fishery.

Fish resources in the ZEEI and on the high seas have also been neglected, even though no other country has the right to explore and use resources in the ZEEI. Prof. Melda Kamil (Kompas, 13/09/2016) stated clearly that after successfully expelling foreign fishing vessels, the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry was to allow "pure" Indonesian boats to fish in the ZEEI and on the adjacent high seas.

If we are able to utilize the ZEEI, we do not have any obligation to share fishery resources with foreign vessels, but if we do not utilize it of course other countries will try to take advantage of our weaknesses to enter the ZEEI.

Not fishing the ZEEI and the high seas would even indirectly weaken our maritime sovereignty. If our fishermen fill the void in the ZEEI, they will help protect the sovereignty of the nation, as they can inform on IUU fishing vessels operating in the ZEEI. The legal basis for fishing on the high seas actually already exists, namely the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministerial Regulation No. 12/2012, which seems to have been ruled out even though this rule was born because Indonesia is a full member of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC ), which is obliged to harmonize its regulations by adopting the regulation of the Regional Fisheries Management Organization (RFMO).

Mapping the strength of our fleet on the high seas does not deal only with how many of our ships are registered with the RFMO, but with how many ships are really operating on the high seas. As an illustration, as of now no frozen tuna sashimi vessels are operating on the high seas. Therefore, it is necessary to synchronize the data about active Indonesian vessels registered with the RFMO on a regular basis so that we can develop a national strategy and implement it to strengthen the position of our country in the future. In all, 1,384 Indonesian fishing vessels are registered with the IOTC. Compared to 2014, this number has increased by 108 (8.4 percent). So this time the number of Indonesian vessels in the IOTC is 22.6 percent of the total number of vessels, or 6,109 ships in the IOTC.

Meanwhile, the number of Indonesian vessels registered with the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna (CCSBT) is 124, 22.06 percent of all 419 boats. However, Indonesia's total allowable catch quota for 2016 to 2017 is 750 tons, which is the third lowest. This is unfortunate because we are the largest archipelago in the world, but get an unfair portion. Therefore, all parties should strive for our quota to be proportional to the area of our seas.

In the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) our position is the most depressing because the number of Indonesian ships dropped drastically by 97.5 percent. Currently we only have 11 boats, only 0.25 percent of the total of 419 registered. What is also ironic, Indonesia's composition consists of seven pole and line vessels and four purse seine vessels, which are small compared to those of other countries. This proves the ministry of marine resources and fisheries has no tuna policy strategy.

The ministry claims to be defending a 5,889-ton per year big eye tuna quota, but it is not used at all so far because it is impossible for pole and line and purse seine boats to catch them. This is very alarming and explains why the production of the fishing industry in Bitung has dropped drastically, since we have lost our 352 fishing vessels in the West and Central Pacific Ocean.

The issue of sustainability

The dean of the School of Fisheries and Marine Sciences (FPIK) of the Bogor Institute of Agriculture (IPB), Luky Adrianto, in an article in Kompas on October 17, 2016, said a well-governed fisheries should not just be sustainable in an eco-biology context but also a socio-economic one. Sustainability won't happen if the resource, even if increasing, is not used and managed properly.

In all, the directorate general of fisheries allowed 3,723 fishing boats to operate as of November 17, 2016. Of them, 74.3 percent were net boats and 25.7 percent hook-fishing boats. This reflects that policy implementation is running counter to the vision and mission of sustainability. How can fish resources be well preserved if more nets than lines are used? Its detail, purse seines catch 46 percent of large pelagic and small pelagic species, "bouke ami" nets 16.50 percent, deep drift gill nets 4.4 percent and oceanic drift gill nets 7.2 percent.

Fishing gear is now even less environmentally friendly than in 2014. Fewer boats are using hooks and lines and gill nets have been replaced with ring trawl nets.

The welfare of fishery workers has been neglected. Many fishermen are experiencing negative socio-economic impacts because of the policy of banning certain gear, even though the ministry should be controlling, not prohibiting. Fisheries and marine product exports have declined from US$4.64 billion in 2014 to US$3.94 billion in 2015. There has also been a decrease in the export value of fisheries and marine products by 17.69 percent. The composition of today's fishing fleet, the limitation of vessel sizes and the imposition of absurd levies also run counter to efforts to improve production.

The export value of tuna fell 15.86 percent from 2014 to 2015, whereas if we compare January to August 2015 with the same period in 2016, it fell 4.27 percent. The decline in the value of exports of tuna should be a warning for the government to review its policies. There must be an immediate evaluation of existing legislation and efforts to boost production of the tuna fishery as mandated by Presidential Decree No. 7/2016.

As a sovereign country that has become a full member of the RFMO, we should immediately take advantage of the high seas. Therefore, we need vessels made abroad because we require ultra-low-temperature (minus 60 degrees Celsius) technology to maintain the quality of frozen sashimi and our domestic shipyards cannot build such boats. There is no need for us to be allergic to foreign-made ships. What is important is there should be strict law enforcement concerning actions, not a prohibition of tools. We all hope that the sea will help improve the nation's future if we can implement a consistent and realistic policy strategy that is not merely a slogan.

HENDRA SUGANDHI, Secretary General of Indonesian Tuna Association

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