The Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries plans to lift ban on a number of fishing nets that are currently prohibited, including Danish seine, drawing criticism from fishers associations, fishery CSOs amongst others.

By May Rahmadi

Fierce criticism has been directed at the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, currently under the leadership of Edhy Prabowo, following plans to lift ban on the use of a number of fish catching equipment that were declared illegal by his predecessor, Susi Pudjiastuti.

When passed, fishers will be able to once again use two-boat purse seine net (known locally as pukat cincin), one-boat seine nets (payang), Danish seine nets (cantrang), and shrimp bottom trawl nets (pukat hela dasar udang), trolling rods, squid jigging and mechanized pole and lines.

The discussions followed a study ordered by the Minister of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Number B.717/MEN-KP/11/2019 on regulations in the maritime and fishery sectors. It also involved a “public consultation” on June 9, 2020 between advisors to the minister, representatives of enterprises, and a number of representatives of fishermen.

The plan is to legalize those fishing equipment revising previous laws of 2015 and 2016 on prohibition of the use of trawls and seine nets, and fishing channels and placement of fishing equipment within the fishery management area

The Chairman of the Alliance of Fishermen of North Sumatra (ANSU) who also chairs the Nusantara Federation of Fishermen Union (FSNN) Sutrisno said that he deemed the forum strange as it was held in times of the COVID-19 Pandemic and it did not involve traditional, small-scale fishers.

“At the same time, fishermen in Indonesia are not being involved. This policy actually, is clearly not for traditional fishermen or small-scale fishermen,” Sutrisno said on June 10, 2020.

He said that the discussion on the revision of the two ministerial regulations that would allow seiners to operate in Indonesian water was flawed in its procedure. In substance, allowing the previously illegal fishing equipment will also give rise to problems.

“It will destroy the future of fishery resources and Indonesian seas that can, at present be enjoyed by all levels of the Indonesian society,” Sutrisno said.

He explained that the use of trawl nets will drain the country’s entire marine and fishery resources because it would lead to over-fishing, the destruction of reefs, the ecosystem and marine life, and lead to difficulties for the small-scale fishermen in catching fishes.

Trian Yunanda, the Director for Fishery Resource Management at the ministry, argued that the efforts to legalize the eight fishing equipment was aimed at better controlling them as there would be standard sets for their use.

“Of course, there would SNI standards applied, that meet environmentally friendly standards. There will be arrangements, quota, and also the supervision would all be under our control,” Yunanda said.

Yunanda said that based on his experience in mobilizing seiners in North Natuna, it is not true that trawl nets damage reefs.

“People say that cantrang (Danish Seine) destroys. It was actually difficult for the cantrang to catch fish there. This was influenced by the strong currents there. This proves that cantrang has a different characteristic than trawls,” he argued.

Wiro Winardi, the manager for marine program at EcoNusa, a non-profit organisation that focuses on sustainability and management of natural resources in Indonesia said that cantrang (seine) was indeed not effective to catch fish in North Natuna due to the characteristics of the sea there which is very deep, so the use of seine there will not be appropriate.

But he said that it is the operation of cantrang boats in other places that needed to be given attention.

“Can the Ministry of Marine and Fishery Affairs make sure that cantrang are not used elsewhere?” Winardi asked Ekuatorial. “What will the supervision be like?” he asked further.

The ministry is claiming that the formulation of the regulation that would legalize the eight fishingequipment, including cantrang, is being made based on the results of studies on the characteristics of the said fishing equipment. With the issuance of the revised regulations, boats with those equipment would immediately be able to operate in the seas.

Secretary General of the People’s Coalition for Fishery Justice (KIARA) Susan Herawati, said that the ministry’s plan to give seiners permit to operate reflects the government’s position, siding with the interests of cantrang operators.

Herawati said that allowing the use of the previously banned fishing equipment will only increase conflicts between large fishing vessels, of above 10 gross tonnage (GT), and those of traditional and small-scale fishers who usually have boats under 10 GT.

“If the ministry no longer sides with traditional fishermen and small scale fishermen, it should better be disbanded,” she said. “The policy of the ministry will only trigger conflicts between traditional fishermen and small-scale fishermen as the rights holders over the sea and water of Indonesia, and those entrepreneurs who own those seiners. This is a very dangerous policy,” she added.

The plan to lift the ban, Herawati said, could also reopen doors to the practice of Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing, especially by the large ships of above 200 GT.

“This would be an entry gate for the IUU Fishing practice and the exploitation of marine and fishery resources in Indonesia. The impact is clear. Traditional and small-scale fishermen will lose their sea space,” Herawati said.

She urges the ministry to cancel its plan to issue permit to the seiners because this will harm millions of households in the Indonesian fisheries sector.

“For the sake of the sustainability of marine and fishery resources and the life of millions of traditional fishermen and small-scale fishermen, the policy of providing permits to seiners must be revoked,” she added.

Under Susi Pudjiastuti, the ministry had issued ministerial regulation number 2 of 2015 on the prohibition on the use of trawls and seine nets in the fishery management area of the Republic of Indonesia.

Pudjiastuti had argued that cantrang and seven other fishing equipment posed a danger to the marine ecosystem because they will capture all types of marine life without distinction and even damage reefs. The minister’s two regulations were aimed at achieving a responsible, optimal and sustainable use of fishery resources and to reduce conflicts in the use of fishery resources based on fishery resources management principles.

Cantrang had already been banned during the New Order era when the government issued presidential decree number 39 of 1980 on the elimination of trawls. It mandates gradual ban of the use of trawls in almost the entire country, as the sue of seine and trawl nets became a serious problem for traditional, small scale fishers at the time because they could not compete with trawlers which were usually part of large scale enterprises. Ekuatorial.

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