Indonesia: Fishermen reject planned conservation zone

Severianus Endi, The Jakarta Post 21 Mar 16;

Thousands of fishermen in West Kalimantan will become jobless if the provincial administration goes ahead with its plan to ban fishing within 4 nautical miles of the shore, as many are not sufficiently equipped to fish that far offshore.

Indonesian Fishermen’s Association (HNSI) West Kalimantan chapter head Sigit Sugiardi said most of the fishermen used boats with a capacity below 5 gross tons, which have a cruising range that does not extend further than 4 nautical miles offshore.

“If we cannot catch fish, we don’t eat. How is it be possible if fishermen are only allowed to catch fish beyond 4 miles? Our boats will not be able to do it,” Sigit told The Jakarta Post over the weekend.

He said the West Kalimantan sea was generally flat, sandy and muddy, while the coastline was teeming with mangrove trees, making it impossible to use large equipment.

He added that small fishermen already experienced difficulties in meeting their daily needs, and that limiting their movement would only increase their existing burden.

The province’s annual fish production of 200,000 tons, exceeds the initial target of 180,000 tons. Meanwhile, annual fish consumption in the region has also risen from the previous rate of 24 kilograms per person to 36 kg at present.

West Kalimantan Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Office head Gatot Rudiyono said the increase in fish consumption in the province should be followed by fish conservation efforts, as a significant increase in consumption as well as a rise in illegal fishing by foreign fishing vessels would deplete fish reserves in the future.

“We are very concerned about sustainability initiatives in the marine sector,” Gatot said.

He said that the planned four-mile non-fishing zone was intended to maintain fish stocks.

The zone will serve as a safe place for fish to mate, spawn, lay eggs and protect minnows from predators.

“But in principle, the conservation plan is not rigid as fishermen are still allowed to fish providing they use fishing gear that is completely safe,” said Gatot.

The plan is part of Law No. 23/2014, which gives provincial administrations the authority to manage marine areas within 12 nautical miles from the shore.

If the zero to 4 mile zone is turned into a conservation area, fishermen will only be able to catch fish in the four to 12-mile zone from the shore.

“If fish has grown big, it will not remain near the coast, and will obviously move toward the open sea beyond the 4-mile zone where they are allowed to be caught,” said Gatot.

In implementing the plan, the provincial administration will draw up a provincial bylaw regarding the division of marine utility zones. To protect the conservation zone, concrete barriers will be installed to protect the area from would-be poachers.

He added that without a reserved fish conservation area, the marine life in West Kalimantan waters would be severely depleted, similar to what has happened in Vietnam and Thailand, where fish stocks have been affected by fishing vessels entering their waters.

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