Indonesia: Trawlers threaten income of fishermen in N. Sumatra, Riau

Rizal Harahap and Apriadi Gunawan The Jakarta Post 15 Sep 16;

Trawlers operating in the waters off Riau and North Sumatra have been blamed for drastically reducing the incomes of local fishermen. Local fisherman are now urging their respective administrations to curb the operations of the trawlers.

In Riau, Bagan Siapiapi chairman Jumadi said some 25 trawlers with a minimum tonnage of 500 GT had been operating in Rokan Hilir waters. They are predicted to have come from North Sumatra.

“The colors of the boats are different from those of local fishermen. The number of trawlers continues to increase day after day,” Jumadi told reporters on Tuesday.

He said the presence of the trawlers was troubling to local fishermen who normally went 19 kilometers out to the sea from Bagan Siapiapi beach. He said that even without their presence, local fishermen had been experiencing hardship.

Jumadi revealed that to go fishing in the Malacca Strait, four crewmembers of a fishing boat needed to have a loan of Rp 7 million (US$523) at a minimum from a skipper.

Of that loan, Rp 2 million is reserved for their respective families to spend on basic household needs. The rest is spent on diesel fuel, food and other necessities for a week-long fishing trip. This excludes spending money on fixing the ship’s machinery and buying ice to keep their catch cool.

“During the peak season, fishermen can bring home Rp 30 million. Thanks to the trawlers, the earning capacity is now only half of that,” said Jumadi, adding that after deducting the loan amount and dividing the rest into four portions, the money left over did not properly reward them for a whole week spent fishing in the middle of the sea.

Jumadi said the trawlers also threatened the sea’s biota. He therefore urged the fishery and marine agencies of the region to intervene to save the remaining biota from further damage.

In North Sumatra, local fishermen have also complained about trawlers. The chairman of the North Sumatra branch of the Indonesian Fishermen Association (HNSI), Syah Afandin, said trawlers mostly operated off the province’s western coast.

He said their numbers kept increasing day after day despite a government ban on their operations as stipulated in a ministerial regulation.

“This is weird. The trawlers cannot be detected by our law enforcement institutions,” Syah said.

He expressed the fear that if law enforcement bodies could not curb these trawlers, local fishermen would take matters into their own hands.

Providing an example, he pointed to the burning of four trawlers by traditional fishermen in Tanjung Balai-Asahan waters last weekend. The said their actions constituted an expression of anger toward the inability of law enforcement bodies to curb the trawlers.

He said such anarchic actions could potentially take place in the Sibolga and Central Tapanuli waters off North Sumatra’s western coast.

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