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An Indonesian trawler. IUU fishing and overfishing is forcing local fishers to operate in neighbour country waters. (Photo: FAO)

Overfishing a looming problem

Click on the flag for more information about Indonesia INDONESIA
Wednesday, March 17, 2010, 21:40 (GMT + 9)

Large foreign fishing fleets in Indonesian waters, some illegally flying the Indonesian flag, are forcing local traditional fishermen to seek catches in the waters of neighboring countries.

Regulations stipulate that local fishermen should make up 70 per cent of the crew on an Indonesian-flagged fishing vessel, while foreign vessels violate this by having more foreign crew members.  

“Illegal fishing practices and overfishing are seriously depleting fish stocks in Indonesian waters,” Purwanto from the Research Center for Capture Fisheries said Monday, The Jakarta Post reports. He was speaking at a meeting on developing cooperation between Indonesian and Australian officials.

To minimize illegal fishing practices in Indonesian waters, the Indonesian government in 2002 began beefing up surveillance and law enforcement and has also improved fishery management. 

These steps have led to the decline of catch losses in Arafura, Papua and other regions. The catch losses in demersal fishing also dropped from 32.6 per cent to 3.3 per cent in 2008. Shrimp fishery catch losses have declined more than 10 per cent since 2003.

Indonesia and Australia signed an MoU in 1974 giving Indonesian artisanal fishermen permission to fish 12 miles off Ashmore Reef, Cartier Islet, Scott Reef, Seringapatam Reef and Browse Islet in Australian waters.

These fishermen come predominantly from Bajo in North Sulawesi, Makassar in South Sulawesi, Probolinggo in East Java, and Alor in East Nusa Tenggara.

Indonesia has also recently imposed a moratorium on new trawl and purse seine fisheries licenses.

Trawling and purse seine fisheries have become a problematic issue in Indonesia, strongly contributing to the overfishing of mostly fully exploited juvenile tunas, and illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing in the area, say observers.

“This moratorium on new fishing licenses for trawlers and purse seiners will certainly stop the bleeding but not the wound, so to speak. A reduction in current fishing capacity is key to addressing problems of overfishing and bycatch of juvenile tunas in the Coral Triangle” said Lida Pet-Soede, World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Coral Triangle Programme Head.

The region contains spawning and nursery grounds and migratory routes for commercially-valuable tuna species such as bigeye, yellowfin, skipjack and albacore, producing more than 40 per cent of the total catch for the Western Central Pacific region, and representing more than 20 per cent of the global catch.

As of 2007, more than 10,000 trawlers and 22,000 purse seiners have been found in Indonesian waters.

“We would also like to seek further clarification on the criteria being used to determine stock recovery and how this is will be evaluated. WWF is willing to participate and contribute to this process,” said Pet-Soede.

Related articles:

- Tougher sanctions for poachers
- Poacher boats may be shot on sight

By Denise Recalde
[email protected]
www.fis.com


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