Jakarta. A multi-stakeholder collaboration plays a vital role in propelling Indonesia —one of the world’s top marine capture producers—towards sustainability, according to the sustainable seafood standards group Marine Stewardship Council, or MSC.
“It is impossible for one to champion sustainable fisheries management alone, considering how vast our fisheries are, not to mention the various fishing fleets and fish species,” MSC Indonesia program director Hirmen Syofyanto told the Jakarta Globe in a recent interview.
“This calls for an integrated collaboration among stakeholders,” he added.
But what exactly is a sustainable fishery? By MSC standards, sustainable fisheries are not solely limited to whether the gear used is eco-friendly. To get the MSC blue tick, fisheries must meet three core principles.
The MSC requires fisheries to keep the fish stocks at a healthy level. They must also minimize the environmental impact of fishing on the marine ecosystem. And last but not least is ensuring the fisheries management is effective and complies with the existing regulations.
“Tuna [fishing], for instance, do not only have to meet regulations issued by the government, but also the regional fisheries management organizations [RFMOs],” Hirmen said.
Indonesia so far has three MSC-certified tuna fisheries, and if combined, the tonnage totals about 14,289 tons, MSC data showed.
“There should be more efforts to drive more Indonesian fisheries towards sustainability and become MSC-certified,” Hirmen said.
The Marine Affairs and Fisheries Ministry has inked a memorandum of understanding on sustainable fishing with the MSC. The government has shown its commitment to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing.
MSC is also working closely with fishery associations, as well as universities in championing sustainable fishing practices. And with the stakeholders on the same page, MSC hopes to help more fisheries get certified.
“As for customers, by purchasing eco-labeled seafood products, they can encourage fishery [business] actors to meet sustainable standards,” Hirmen said.
During the discussion, Hirmen named the numerous and highly distributed data as one of the major obstacles in Indonesia’s journey towards sustainable fishery.
“Whether it is the data on fish landings, catch per unit effort or the fish catch volume — they are all still highly distributed. [...] We also need to improve our harvest strategy for every species, as well as collect data according to their species, fishing fleet, and so on," he told the Globe.
According to Hirmen, the fishery sector remains resilient amid the Covid-19 pandemic, with exports showing a positive trend.
The sector also plays a crucial role in the lower class economies, especially in remote islands. About 90 percent of fishermen are artisanals. Many people across the supply chain —starting from fish processing workers to traders— also rely on the sector to make a living. In fact, crabs also serve as a source of income for many women workers or mothers, Hirmen said.
"Fishery can remain resilient to global issues as long as we manage it sustainably. Fisheries can bring rewards to us if we conserve the resources, protect [the ocean] habitat, and maintain [sustainable] fishing practices," he added.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) named Indonesia as one of the world’s top capture producers. Indonesia’s marine capture production stood at 6.71 million tons in 2018, FAO reported.
Marine and fisheries exports rose by 4.15 percent in January-April 2021, in comparison to last year. The total export value in the first quarter this year reached $1.75 billion, according to the Marine Affairs and Fisheries Ministry.