Amid government monitoring and permit requirements, shark fishing and trade remain scarce, fishing boats unregistered in Sangihe Islands.
The Indonesian government issued a regulation (PP No. 7 of 1999) concerning the Preservation of Plant and Animal Species. This was the first law to regulate the utilization of sharks and rays in Indonesia.
In it, only sawfish species are fully protected. This means that other types of sharks and rays can still be utilized freely.
It was only in 2012 that the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries regulated the procedures for handling caught pelagic thresher sharks (bycatch) through a regulation (PER.12/MEN/2012) concerning Capture Fisheries Business on the High Seas.
The following year, the government also issued a decree (No.18/KEPMEN-KP/2013) concerning the Determination of the Full Protection Status of Whale Sharks (Rhincodon typus).
In addition, the fisheries ministry also issued a decree (No.4/KEPMEN-KP/2014) on the Determination of the Full Protection Status of Manta Rays and a regulation (No.59/PERMEN-KP/2014) on the Ban on the Expulsion of Cowboy Sharks (Carcarinus longimanus) and Hammerhead Sharks (Sphyrna spp.).
The ban prohibits trading or releasing these two shark species — in any form — from Indonesian territory. This regulation was revised with another regulation (No.5/PERMEN-KP/201) in 2018.
The various regulations issued by the government aim to control the utilization of several types of sharks. This is considering the increasing trend of shark fishing while the shark population is decreasing.
Not only nationally, international utilization of shark and ray commodities is also regulated through CITES. In 2003, whale sharks and basking sharks were included in Appendix II. Sawfish have been included in Appendix I of CITES since 2007.
Meanwhile, cowboy sharks, hammerhead sharks, and manta rays have been classified in CITES Appendix II since 2014. The most updated are silky sharks (Carcharhinus falciformis), thresher sharks, and mobula rays listed in CITES Appendix II in 2016.
From direct observation in Batuwingkung and Petta, several shark species whose trade must meet quotas through regulations set by the government, are freely brought home by fishermen, absent any supervision.
These species include the grey reef shark (Carcharhinus falciformis) and cowboy sharks (Carcharhinus longimanus). Even fishermen admit to bringing home hammerhead sharks (Sphyrna lewini).
Above is shark species in Indonesia that are protected and/or their trade is regulated by international convention.
Oktavianto Prasetio Darmono (Tejo), from the Rekam Jejak Alam Nusantara Foundation, a non-profit organization that conducts various studies on natural resources and biodiversity as well as conservation efforts in Indonesia, firmly believes that fisheries catch should be recorded.
"Data collection is done at the landing port. If fishermen do not land at the port, there is no obligation to record what they catch," Tejo said when contacted some time ago.
Tejo said, in accordance with regulations, fishermen should land at fishing ports, both managed by the central and regional governments. "Or the district and provincial governments can educate fishermen to report their catches."
Government supervision is done through fishing boat permits. Boats of more than five GT and up to 30 GT must possess a number of documents such as fishing boat registration (TDKP), fishing permit (SIPI), and ship pass, all of which are issued by the provincial government and the executing unit of fish landing ports.
The challenge, however, lies with the traditional fishermen in Sangihe, especially those in Batuwingkung who only own or operate boats under five GT.
“Regulation-wise, they are not required to register (their catch) and not required to register their ship,” Tejo said.
The high level of fishing activities in Batuwingkung and Petta, should come under the government’s attention.
At the very least the Coastal and Marine Resource Management Agency (BPSPL) and the Maritime and Fisheries Office should enforce registration. Priority should also be accorded to promoting shark fishing control, especially those in which trade have quotas.
The absence of these institutions on-site and data collection has led to no data on sharks caught by fishermen in Sangihe.
“The data we have comes from production and marine catch. The data is from Satu Data KKP. Its collection has also been assisted by our friends, the field instructors,” said Marthin Pudihang, Secretary of the Sangihe District Marine and Fisheries Office on July 13, 2022.
The Manado chapter of the BPSPL was not willing to release data. The staff said that data could only be released with approval from the structural officer at the Makassar BPSPL in South Sulawesi.
We tried to send a letter to the BPSPL head in Makassar and repeatedly contacted the institution’s task force in Manado. However, our request for data was ignored for months and has never been responded to.
Data on the number of sharks caught in Sangihe could only be obtained from the Agency for Fish Quarantine, Quality Control and Safety of Fishery Products (BKIPM) in Tahuna.
Data on shark and shark fin traffic recorded by the KPIM station in Tahuna between January 1, 2019 to June 13, 2022.
Data from the KIPM station in Tahuna does not really reflect the real number of sharks caught by fishermen in Sangihe because they only include data from those who have permits and documents necessary to take fishery products out of Sangihe through the official shipping channel leaving from Tahuna harbor.
Meanwhile, several fishermen in Sangihe admitted that shipping out of Sangihe, especially to Manado and Bitung, is also done through fish collection vessels, or pajeko boats (large fishing boats).
Not all shipments of shark commodities out of Sangihe require a permit. Shark meat sellers at Petta Market supply shark meat in bulk, without paperwork. The requested shark meat can be shipped to Manado or Bitung without licensing.
In the last three years, shark meat demand has also increased. This is reflected in the data presented by the Tahuna KIPM Station head, Geric Lumiu.
This can also be seen at the fishermen's level. In the past, shark bodies were thrown into the sea after the fins were taken, but now shark meat is put into cool boxes for sale. As seen in Batuwingkung and Petta.
"There are two companies in Bitung that buy shark meat. So the meat from Sangihe and Talaud travels to Bitung," said the head of Tahuna PSDKP Station, Bayu Suharto, when met at his office in Tahuna.
This is the second story of a 4-part series produced with support from the Environmental Justice Foundation and Tempo Institute. It was first published in Bahasa Indonesia by Zonautara on March 18, 2023.