• Indonesia and the Problem of IUU Fishing: Why we should care more about our waters?

    In recent months Indonesia has found itself drawn into a number of serious maritime disputes with her neighbors. The decision to name an Indonesian Navy frigate as KRI Usman Harun drew criticisms from Singapore which decried Jakarta’s perceived lack of se

  • ASEAN’s Response to Climate Change

    The world nowadays is not only facing political and economic issues but also environmental issues, namely climate change. Human activities directly and indirectly have made the world warmer due to the greenhouse gases they produce. According to the World

  • ASEAN’s Unanswered Question on the RCEP

    A month has passed since negotiators from the ten ASEAN member-states and its six Dialogue Partners gathered in Kuala Lumpur for the third round of talks on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). With the aim of “achieving a modern, compr

Indonesia and the Problem of IUU Fishing: Why we should care more about our waters?

In recent months Indonesia has found itself drawn into a number of serious maritime disputes with her neighbors. The decision to name an Indonesian Navy frigate as KRI Usman Harun drew criticisms from Singapore which decried Jakarta’s perceived lack of sensitivities. Jakarta was on the other side of the coin when it earlier criticized Australia’s lack of sensitivity over Operation Sovereign Borders.

More seriously – though with less coverage – were incidents involving Papua New Guinea and Thailand. In the case of Papua New Guinea, media reports stated that five Indonesian fishermen went missing after their fishing vessel was stopped and set alight by Papua New Guinean forces, with the fishermen left to swim back to shore. In the case of Thailand, two Indonesian sailors were killed after they boarded a Thai fishing vessel that had been operating in Indonesian waters.

While the topic of illegal unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing is often dismissed as being of little interest to the general public, the cases of Papua New Guinea and Thailand demonstrate the important and sensitive implications IUU fishing has on political and security matters. With countries such as China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam conducting IUU fishing in Indonesia’s Arafura, Celebes and Natuna seas, it is apparent that there exists a regional element to IUU fishing. It was in this sense that The Habibie Center held a Talking ASEAN public discussion on the subject inviting experts from the government, academic and private sector. 

There, it was revealed that the global fishing industry not only drew USD 80 billion in fisheries revenue but moreover, it went on to generate USD 240 billion for the global economy. Interestingly, 31.4 million metric ton of fish products (or 21% of global production) was sourced from the ASEAN region with Indonesia supplying 33.8% of the region’s fish products. Worryingly, IUU fishing meant Indonesia was losing out on USD 2-5 billion. Such costs did not yet take into account the environmental consequences of IUU fishing which not only resulted in pollution but also 71% of mangrove and 70% of coral reef to suffer degradation. Arguably if such environmental consequences were to be monetized, Indonesia’s economic loss to IUU fishing would be far higher.

As such, it is clear that IUU fishing is a major matter that covers political, security, regional, economic and environmental concerns for Indonesia. Yet, as the country enters crucial legislative and presidential elections, one can hardly find IUU fishing being mentioned in any political debates or campaign rallies. This is demonstrative of the lack of political will cited by the experts as contributing to Indonesia’s difficulties in addressing IUU fishing. This in turn resulted in lack of funding, lack of capacity and lack of coordination.

Exacerbating this problem is what some refer to as the “changing fashion” of fisheries management. Over the decades, Indonesia has adopted poor and inconsistent fisheries management; a problem seen elsewhere in ASEAN. For example the 1970s saw Indonesian fisheries policy orientated towards economic growth. While the focus was still on growth, by the 1980s and 1990s there was an increasing awareness of the need to rationalize the level of fishing in Indonesian waters. In the 21st century, Indonesia witnessed mixed policies of industrialization on the one hand and ecosystem approach to fisheries management (EAFM) on the other hand or marine protected areas (MPA) on the one hand and regionalization on the other hand.

With the current government coming to an end, it will be interesting to see what direction the next government takes in terms of fisheries management. Will the country’s new leaders bring about another change of policy? What quality will those policies be? Indeed, will they attach the level of importance that IUU fishing deserves?

Noting the soft and hard structure approaches taken by the Indonesian authorities to tackle IUU fishing, one suggestion offered during The Habibie Center’s public discussion was to also introduce an economic structure approach. Such an approach meant addressing the current situation whereby the expected benefits from IUU fishing far outweighed the expected punishments if caught. Subscribing to the economics of crime and punishment theory, it is unsurprising if IUU fishing continued to take place in Indonesian waters if adequate economic disincentives were lacking (or poorly enforced).

Beyond adopting market and trade controls such as financial penalties, taxation policies and incentives, it was recommended that cost recovery be introduced so as to create a sense of responsibility for all players in the fishing industry to reduce IUU fishing. This would help generate a change in mindset whereby IUU fishing would no longer be seen as a problem for the authorities to tackle alone, but instead force fishing product companies to also make their own efforts. Lastly, it was also suggested that the benefit and cost of IUU fishing be incorporated into the country’s macroeconomic indicators so as to convince policy makers, especially the new government and parliament to care more about the problem of IUU fishing.

IUU fishing is a major matter that covers political, security, regional, economic and environmental concerns. It is high time that Indonesia recognizes it as such and takes action.

Written by: A. Ibrahim Almutaqqi, The Habibie Center

Published in The Jakarta Post, 5 April 2014

22 November 2014

Indonesia and the Problem of IUU Fishing: Why we should care more about our waters?

In recent months Indonesia has found itself drawn into a number of serious maritime disputes with her neighbors. The decision to name an Indonesian Navy frigate as KRI Usman Harun drew criticisms from Singapore which decried Jakarta’s perceived lack of se

22 November 2014

ASEAN’s Response to Climate Change

The world nowadays is not only facing political and economic issues but also environmental issues, namely climate change. Human activities directly and indirectly have made the world warmer due to the greenhouse gases they produce. According to the World

22 November 2014

ASEAN’s Unanswered Question on the RCEP

A month has passed since negotiators from the ten ASEAN member-states and its six Dialogue Partners gathered in Kuala Lumpur for the third round of talks on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). With the aim of “achieving a modern, compr

22 November 2014

ASEAN’s Treaty of Amity & Cooperation and the Nobel Peace Prize: Nomination for 2015?

As the great and the good of the region gathered in Nay Pyi Daw last month for the 21st ASEAN Regional Forum, there was a rather predictable if not dull feeling to it all. They came (with bold promises). They talked (about the South China Sea as always).