Koral, an NGO coalition advocating for fisheries and ocean sustainability, criticizes the government's ocean policies at a press conference in Central Jakarta on Tuesday. (JG Photo/Tara Marchelin)

NGO Coalition Criticizes Gov't for Ignoring Poor Coastal Communities


MARCH 04, 2020

Jakarta. Koral, a coalition of non-governmental organizations advocating for fisheries and ocean sustainability, has criticized the government's policies on fisheries and ocean governance, arguing they potentially harm the ocean ecosystem and create social inequality.

The coalition is made up of NGOs Destructive Fishing Watch (DFW), EcoNusa, Greenpeace Indonesia, Indonesia Ocean Justice Initiative (IOJI), Indonesian Center for Environmental Law (ICEL), People's Coalition for Fisheries Justice (Kiara), Archipelago Sea Scout (Pandu Laut Nusantara), Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) and Terangi Foundation. 

"In the past five years, marine and fisheries policies have improved but today we're seeing a potential setback. The government's commitment to ocean sustainability and alignment to small-scale fishermen has weakened," Greenpeace Indonesia's country director Leonard Simanjuntak said at an event to announce the formation of Koral at Kekini co-working space in Cikini, Central Jakarta, on Tuesday.

The coalition has marked off the policies that have the potential to harm ocean sustainability and the life of small-scale fishermen and coastal communities. 

Wiro Winardi, the ocean program manager of Eco Nusa, said the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister's decision to allow fishing vessels with seine nets from the north coast of Java to operate in the North Natuna Sea to try to ward off trespassing Chinese fishing vessels was a bad move.

"What has been happening in the North Natuna Sea is a dispute over sovereignty, it's not a fisheries issue," Wiro said. 

According to Wiro, the fishing boats from Java could create new conflicts with local fishermen in the North Natuna Sea since the Javanese fishermen use seine nets – which are not eco-friendly – for fishing.

Meanwhile, local fishermen in the area still prefer to use traditional and eco-friendly equipment such as fishing rods. 

"The government should empower local fishermen by increasing their capacity and infrastructure instead," Wiro said.

The decision has also caused regulation uncertainties since seine nets have been banned since 2015 by a Maritime Affairs and Fisheries ministerial regulation on fishing lane and fishing tool placement. 

"The government has to pay attention to the environment and local culture in Natuna. We also demand the government [ban the use of] fishing tools that cause harm to the environment," Wiro said. 

The coalition also criticized the job creation omnibus bill and its potential impact on ocean sustainability.

Fadilla Octaviani, IOJI's enforcement support and stakeholder partnerships director, said the bill concentrates solely on attracting investment without paying attention to the protection of the ecosystem and the interests of marginal community groups in the fisheries sector.

"The bill will get rid of the fish resources assessment commission and replace it effectively with the president. We're worried fisheries management will no longer be based on scientific evidence if this happens," she said.

Fadilla said the bill allows foreign fishing vessels to catch fish in Indonesia's oceans. These foreign vessels regularly use destructive and exploitative fishing tools that endanger ocean sustainability.

"This contradicted a 2016 presidential decree that bans foreign fishing vessels from fishing in Indonesian territory," she said.

Alignment on Small-Scale fishermen 

Koral is also demanding that the government prioritize coastal resources and sea area zero to four miles from the shoreline for small-scale fishermen and coastal communities.

"We urge the government to secure the zero-to-four-miles sea area from the threat of the extractive industry and turn it into a strategic fishing area for traditional fishermen," Edo Rakhman, the campaign coordinator of Walhi, said.

Edo said coastal areas have to be free from the extractive industry because many marginalized coastal communities depend their life on it. He said development in these communities would be nearly impossible if their source of income is always put at risk.

"According to Central Statistics Bureau data from March 2019, 25.4 million Indonesians live in poverty, and most of them live in coastal areas. The government has to improve their lot," he said.