Indonesia is the world’s largest archipelago, with a national territory that consists of 84 percent sea and only 16 percent land. With vast coastal areas, the country has among the most valuable capture fisheries remaining in the world and plays an important role in healthy global ocean ecosystems, being an important driver of economic and social value.
From an economic perspective, the fishery sector is a vital part of the economy, accounting for more than 8.9 percent of the country’s GDP.
With a fishery industry that is worth Rp 86.88 trillion, Indonesia is the second largest fish producer in the world, with export markets that include the US, the EU, Japan and other ASEAN countries.
The fishery sector also provides over 6 million Indonesians with direct employment, of which 2.6 million are employed in capture production and 3.4 million in fish farming.
Past research on the sector also indicates that twice as many people are indirectly employed in fisheries.
In addition, fishing is a significant part of how Indonesians provide for their families and feed the country.
Fish protein contributes an estimated 70 percent of animal protein consumption in Indonesia.
Food security is, therefore, a benefit of growing the fishery sector. The large amount of fish produced in the country and the country’s preeminent value as a breeding ground for thousands of species of fish also emphasize the important role that Indonesia could potentially play in global food security.
However, despite this potential, over past decades, human activity and poor resource management have accelerated a decline in the fisheries sector and the health of the marine ecosystem.
In 2014, the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (UNFAO) reported that US$1 billion of Indonesian fish was caught illegally each year and sent abroad.
Unreported and illegal fishing, on the other hand, had led to approximately $20 billion worth of lost revenue, according to the World Bank in 2015.
Similarly, the marine ecosystem in Indonesia is in a worrying state due to overfishing and destructive fishing practices.
Although Indonesia is home to incredible biodiversity and hosts 17 percent of the world’s coral reefs, approximately 65 percent of the country’s coral reefs are considered threatened by overfishing.
Since the beginning of the Jokowi administration, the MAFM has made a concerted effort to revive the value of the fishery sector through the issuance of several related policies.
The moratorium on ex-foreign vessels between November 2014 and October 2015, for instance, significantly contributed to fish stock recovery.
Other policies include the ban on transshipment and destructive fishing practices, the promotion of fish processing and the canning industry to foreign investors, and the facilitation of credit disbursement by the banking sector in collaboration with the Financial Services Authority (OJK) — all of which have contributed to the growth of the sector in the past year.
As a result of these policies, Indonesia’s production of captured fish rose 5.03 percent (year-on-year) to 4.72 million tons in the third quarter of 2015. The increase was significant: from 2010 to 2014, the national production of capture fisheries had only grown by an average of 3.6 percent.
Nevertheless, despite apparent improvements in the economy, as well as the ecosystem, questions remain as to how effective these policies have been at addressing social issues associated with the wellbeing of individuals employed in wild capture fisheries.
Fishing communities in Indonesia generally suffer from rural poverty and subsist below the poverty line. Compounding these problems is the fact that jobs in the sector are typically informal, characterized by seasonal employment and lack proper welfare protection.
Therefore, one potential solution that the government could consider to alleviate their living conditions is inter-ministerial coordination mechanisms.
Led by the MAFM, these mechanisms would provide a blueprint for the development of the sector, while avoiding overlaps in roles and responsibilities.
First, coordination with the Social Affairs Ministry, Cooperatives and Small and Medium Enterprises Ministry and the Villages, Disadvantaged Regions and Transmigration Ministry, could provide alternative income-generating activities for fishermen during their time off work.
This could take the form of employment in the processing industry or ecotourism social enterprises, involving both the fishermen and other members of the communities.
Second, coordination with the Cooperatives and Small and Medium Enterprises Ministry could assist small-scale fisheries in developing fisheries cooperatives and obtaining access to financing from banks and other financial institutions.
The presence of cooperatives is particularly important for the building and sustaining of networks between producers, and will make the provision of assistance by the government and the private sector more effective.
Third, coordination with the Public Works and Public Housing Ministry is important for the provision of the required infrastructure to build the planned fishing villages and to connect coastal communities with the processing industry.
Revitalizing the value of the fishery sector, and consequently the communities that depend on the sector for their livelihoods, requires a holistic approach that takes into account not only the economic and ecosystem benefits, but also social aspects pertaining to the quality of life of the communities involved.
Most importantly, it also requires effective coordination by relevant stakeholders.
Fishing communities in Indonesia generally suffer from rural poverty and subsist below the poverty line.
The Jakarta Post