Indonesia: Anti-poacher fishing policy works, but govt told to do more

Fedina S. Sundaryani and Hans Nicholas Jong The Jakarta Post 11 Oct 16;

Although Indonesia’s fish stocks may be improving due to tighter regulations against illegal fishing, the future may not be so rosy for local fishermen operating in the country’s seas.

The government has long called for illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing to be categorized as a crime by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and has taken the opportunity to push its agenda once again as it is the host of the second International Symposium on Fisheries Crime, which ends Tuesday.

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo reiterated the need for such recognition during the opening of the event, underlining that illegal fishing also entailed other transnational organized crimes such as human trafficking and arms and drug smuggling.

“The negative impacts are not just limited to the fishing industry, but also affect the environment. Our oceans make up 71 percent of the Earth’s surface and is threatened by IUU fishing practices,” he said.

Illegal fishing poses a serious problem for the economies of coastal states and the sustainability of their fisheries and has also threatened the stability of various marine ecosystems.

In Indonesia, IUU fishing has also contributed to annual economic losses of up to US$20 billion because several fishing grounds have been heavily depleted.

Jokowi said in 2014 the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) ranked Indonesia as the second largest producer of ocean fish, with 6 million tons, the equivalent of 6.8 percent of total ocean fish production worldwide. “We are sure that these numbers are below our maximum potential because there is still a widespread practice of IUU fishing.”

Stricter regulations have been implemented on a national level for the past two years. The government has since captured and sunk a total of 236 ships found guilty of IUU practices.

The country’s efforts have apparently borne fruit, with exploitation levels dropping to between 30 and 35 percent. This resulted in an increase of fish stocks to 9.9 million tons at the end of last year from 7.3 million tons in 2013.

Nimmi Zulbainarni, a resource economist at the Bogor Agricultural Institute, agreed with Indonesia’s bid to make IUU fishing a crime and applauded the government’s tough anti-poaching policy. The secretary-general of the Fisheries Community of the Archipelago (MPN) also said the war against illegal fishing had taken a toll on the local fish-processing industry, which employed thousands of largely manual workers, as they had to face shortages in supply caused by the rigid anti-IUU policy, particularly the ban on transshipment.

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