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Indonesia Develops Tuna Harvest Strategies

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INDONESIA - Indonesia has embarked on an ambitious program to develop harvest strategies for its tropical tuna fisheries in archipelagic waters, to ensure that these valuable resources are managed sustainably and used optimally.

Indonesia is the world’s largest archipelagic nation, contributing more than 15 per cent of global tuna production. Positioned at the intersection of the Pacific Ocean and Indian Ocean, and a member of both the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) and Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC), Indonesia’s visionary steps are poised to have far reaching implications.

The aim of Indonesia’s harvest strategy is to maintain commercial tuna stocks at sustainable levels, while maximising the economic returns to Indonesian society.

Under the leadership of Indonesia’s Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries (MMAF), the harvest strategy will also create a more reliable and predictable operating environment for the fishing industry, enabling greater certainty and confidence in investment opportunities.

The International Pole & Line Foundation, Asosiasi Perikanan Pole & Line dan Handline Indonesia (AP2HI), Masyarakat dan Perikanan Indonesia (MDPI) and the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP) are the main NGOs supporting the Government of Indonesia in this work.

From May 18-22, 2015 these partners assisted Indonesia’s Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries during a five-day workshop to obtain inputs and feedback from stakeholders across all sectors, including national and regional governments, industry and scientific experts.

The first day of this workshop was dedicated to communicating the Government’s perspective on the objectives for Indonesia’s tuna harvest strategy, presenting information on the current status of Indonesia’s involvement with tRFMOs, and exploring lessons learned from the region.

“Indonesia is rich in natural resources, but our experience across other sectors has shown that, without effective management, the full benefit of these resources may be lost to Indonesian society.

"As an archipelagic nation, our future depends on us developing harvest strategies to manage our fishery resources effectively,” said Mr Saut Tampubolon, Deputy Director of Fishery Resource Management at MMAF.

During the remainder of the week, experts from world-leading fishery research and management organisations including CSIRO, IOTC, and WCPFC worked with officials from MMAF and fishery stakeholders to discuss management priorities, review available data, and develop a strategy for defining harvest strategies within Indonesia’s archipelagic waters that are compatible with RFMO management measures and meet Indonesia’s development objectives.

Indonesia’s tuna harvest strategy will strengthen a National Plan of Action for the Management of Tuna, Skipjack and Neritic Tuna, and ensure that these valuable natural resources will continue to contribute to achieving Indonesia’s strategic objectives.

Indonesia’s long-term development policy is pro-job, pro-growth, pro-poor and pro-environment. During the week, participants discussed how Indonesia’s tuna resources could be managed to best achieve these goals.

While fishery biologists have an important role to play in understanding the levels of harvest that a stock can sustain, participants at the workshop also emphasised the importance of socio-economic studies to understand how various management scenarios may affect social welfare and economies in coastal communities.

Indonesia’s highly selective one-by-one tuna fisheries, including pole-and-line and handline fisheries, provide a valuable product that is much sought by the international market. At the same time these fisheries are an important source of employment in coastal communities.

Indonesia’s tuna harvest strategy must consider the role of these fisheries for employment, food security and export markets, and ensure that Indonesian fishermen are not marginalized by the expansion of large-scale industrial fishing fleets.

These are questions that IPNLF-Indonesia’s socio-economic program will be investigating over the coming months, in collaboration with scientists from MMAF, University of Technology, Sydney and CSIRO.

One of the challenges in developing a harvest strategy for Indonesia’s tuna fishery is the limited availability of robust data on all aspects of the fishery.

These data limitations create sources of uncertainty in analyses and projections, and these uncertainties must be considered by an effective management plan. IPNLF-Indonesia’s fishery information program is investigating the sources of these uncertainties in catch data, and evaluating the costs and benefits of improving data availability, in collaboration with scientists from MMAF, Bogor Agricultural University, and Wageningen University in the Netherlands.

By establishing a harvest strategy based on sound science, MMAF aims to not only strengthen its relationship with tRFMOs, but also assist Indonesian fishers to reduce operational costs and become more competitive in the international market. Through management actions that will ensure stocks remain well above critical thresholds, fishery managers can ensure that economic benefits are maximized.

An important question the participants wrestled with was how can fishing effort be controlled or regulated so that limits set in the harvesting strategy may not be breached. Participants brainstormed several possible options, but recognised that this will be a long-term process for MMAF in consultation with fishery stakeholders.

Importantly, MMAF is likely to require all fishing licenses for tuna to be issued by the national government, as apposed to the current situation whereby some licenses may be issued by regional governments. This approach will go a long way to streamlining and clarifying management controls.

Over the coming months, work will continue with workshop participants compiling and analysing available sources of data to inform the development of reference limits. A technical working group will be held in August this year to review progress, with a follow-up planning workshop in October to draft recommendations prior to the IOTC Scientific Committee meeting that will be hosted by Indonesia in November.

Thanks to Indonesia’s leadership, this harvest strategy for tropical tuna in archipelagic waters is poised to contribute to improved ocean conditions throughout the region. A healthy ocean means more jobs, more food and more growth.