Fishing resources

Indonesia backtracks on plan criticized for ‘privatising’ fisheries resources

  • Indonesia will not go ahead with a plan allowing foreign and domestic fishing companies to operate for up to 30 years under a contract system.
  • The plan has been widely criticized by small-scale fishermen and sea experts, who said it threatened to turn a public resource into a private resource for the highest bidders.
  • The Department of Fisheries is now announcing that it will revert to a quota-based system for allocating fishing permits, under which new investors will be eligible for “special permits” for up to 15 years.
  • Experts say details of the new fisheries management system need to be made public, as the “special permit” system looks suspiciously like the abolished contract system.

JAKARTA – The Indonesian government has abandoned a plan to contract out long-term fishing rights to companies, following strong criticism from small-scale fishers and experts that the move would effectively privatize the country’s marine resources. country.

The plan, as proposed by the Ministry of Fisheries, would have allowed local and foreign fishing companies to operate for at least 15 years and up to 30 years in a designated fishing area with a catch quota and gear. fishing. The ministry said in December 2021 that the contract scheme would boost economic growth while ensuring stability for potential investors in the fisheries sector.

On August 8, however, Muhammad Zaini Hanafi, director general of capture fisheries at the ministry, said he would not go ahead. He said the ministry had taken into account feedback from marine experts and small-scale fishers, and added that the new fisheries management approach would focus on fishing based on catch quotas.

A fishing port in Java. Image by A. Asnawi/Mongabay Indonesia.

“This is a positive thing for which we must commend the Ministry of Fisheries: they have listened to the concerns of civil society,” said Harimuddin, chief adviser to the Indonesia Ocean Justice Initiative, a think tank based in Jakarta, during an online discussion in August. 11.

Experts have largely rejected the proposal, saying it would reduce government authority in managing marine resources and would also discriminate against marginalized fishing groups. They added that contractual fisheries management was unconstitutional because it would turn a public resource into a private resource.

“Is this policy really in line with the needs of traditional fishers and is it intended to benefit them, or is this policy rather rolling out a red carpet for the sustainability of companies and foreign investors who wish to exploit the fisheries resources? ? Susan Herawati, general secretary of the Coalition for Fisheries Justice (KIARA), an advocacy group, said in a statement.

Zaini from the fisheries ministry told the local newspaper kompa that his office would instead issue a “special permit” to new investors to allow them to continue operating for 15 years, but without signing a contract. Potential investors in the fisheries sector will have to submit their catch quota application and go through a bidding process. Zaini added that companies with an existing fishing license, known as a SIUP, would have to convert their current quota, determined by vessel, into a total catch quota.

There are few publicly available details of the “special permit” and catch quota mechanism currently touted by the Department of Fisheries. Information available over the past year suggests that the biggest difference from the contractual approach is that the new strategy would assign a maximum annual total allowable catch (TAC) limit to each actor in the fisheries, fisheries traditional and small scale to large and large even amateurs. The current strategy states that each stakeholder is allowed to catch as many fish as they wish as long as the total catch does not exceed the TAC, which is capped at 80% of the estimated fish stock.

Some reports have indicated that industrial fishers would get up to 60% of the total allocation, with the rest split between traditional and small-scale fishers (20%), research (10%) and recreation and tourism ( 10%). Industrial fishers are also expected to help develop or upgrade ports and fishing facilities.

Zaini previously said that investors have been allocated 5.6 million metric tons of fish catches in four industrial fishing areas: parts of North Natuna Sea, Aru Sea, parts of Arafura and Timor and parts of the Indian Ocean. He estimated that the value of production from these areas could reach 180 trillion rupees ($12 billion), with the government expected to derive a tenth of its revenue.

Indonesia’s marine capture fisheries employ approximately 2.7 million workers; the majority of Indonesian fishermen are small-scale operators, with vessels under 10 gross tons. Under the status quo scenario, capture fisheries are projected to grow at an annual rate of 2.1% from 2012 to 2030.

The new regulations also aim to further divide Indonesia’s fishing grounds into separate zones for traditional and artisanal fishers, for large fishing vessels, and for conservation efforts, such as spawning grounds and hatcheries. It will also regulate the harvest quotas for each type of fish, the number of boats, the landing ports, the fishing periods and the types of gear authorized in each fishing zone.

IOJI’s Harimuddin called on the Department of Fisheries to release full details of the “special permit” mechanism to allow the public to study it and report any potential issues. He said he was concerned that the suggested mechanism was effectively the same as the contractual system, but under a different name.

“Don’t let him discriminate against certain groups of fishermen,” Harimuddin said. “What would allow a [corporate] the entity receives special treatment while all the public, especially small-scale fishers, have the same right of access to natural resources? »

Fishermen in Java unloading their catch. Image by A. Asnawi/Mongabay Indonesia.

Basten Gokkon is senior writer for Indonesia at Mongabay. Find him on Twitter @bgokkon.

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