The decision of fishermen to go on strike reflects differences among state officials in charge of the fishery business. Such a case is a reflection of the real problems at the elite level that have eventually trickled down.
People's Coalition for Fisheries Justice (Kiara) secretary general Abdul Halim in Jakarta on Wednesday (5/10/2016) said the strike of business players looks to showcase the sector's dependence on irresponsible fishing practices, such as the use of fishing trawlers and transshipment.

The tensions among business players in the fisheries industry have sharpened with differences between the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry and the Office of the Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister. While the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry is trying to improve the performance of domestic fisheries, the Office of the Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister is calling for the opening up of foreign investment into the industry.

"That is the problem," Halim said, adding that President Joko Widodo needed to lend a hand on this issue.

The problems in the fisheries industry materialized with the decision of boat operators along Java's northern coast, fishing boat businesspeople and the fish processing factories in Muara Baru, Jakarta, to go on strike starting on Oct. 10. The concurrent strike was called in response to government policies that they see as detrimental to the fishing industry.

Muara Baru Fishery Business Association chairman Tachmid Widiasto Pusoro and United Fishermen Front coordinator Bambang Wicaksana said separately in Jakarta the strike would be conducted by the Indonesia Tuna Association (Astuni) and the Nusantara Purse Seine Fishermen Association (HNPN) for a month.

Tachmid said the temporary termination of the processing plants was triggered by the decision of Perum Perindo to increase land leasing fees by up to 460 percent from Rp 236 million to Rp 1.56 billion per hectare per year. Besides this, Perum Perindo also cut short the leasing duration from 20 years to five years, leaving businessmen with no business certainty.

Today, there are 70 fish processing plants at the Nizam Zachman Port in Muara Baru, Jakarta, under the management of state fishery company Perum Perindo.

Meanwhile, Bambang said the operational termination was a form of protest against maritime security officers who criminalize the use of cantrang, a kind of Danish seine or trawl.

In North Sulawesi, a hundred fishing boats and fish-carrier boats have also gone on strike to demand that the government speed up fishing industrialization.

North Sulawesi's National Fishing Boats Association (AKPN) chairman Rudy Walukow and Fishing Processing Unit (UPI) chairman Basmi Said stated that the strike was a protest against some uncertain policies in the fishing industry.

Credit for fishing equipment

Separately, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti said for years the revenue from the Nizam Zachman Port in Muara Baru was very low and the government could not manage it. It is time for the fishing port to be managed properly.

Susi added that her office promised to help owners of the trawlers with banking credit to replace their fishing equipment. The credit for the fishing equipment amounts to Rp 200 million at a minimum. The use of trawlers is banned because of their destructive nature.

"I am preparing a special desk to serve owners of trawlers who want to change their fishing equipment from 8 a.m. through to 4 p.m. at the ministry," Susi added.

Meanwhile, boat owners who still have to pay off loans for the previous purchase of trawlers can restructure their credit for two years and get new loans to buy fishing equipment.

However, her office requires that boat owners submit documents showing the true size of their boats.

"I hope the owners of trawlers use this facility. The growing number of fish must be followed with better fisheries management so that it will benefit all fishermen and boat owners," Susi said.

Susi emphasized that the measuring of boats will be free of charge.