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Indonesia’s Pole-and-Line Tuna Catch Remains at a Healthy Level

01 September 2015

INDONESIA - The International Pole & Line Foundation (IPNLF) has issued findings from an evaluation study it commissioned on the production of Indonesian tuna fisheries in selected provinces to help dispel any confusion over the size of the country’s pole-and-line catch and to clarify how much of the production enters commercial supply chains.

Recent reports have been circulated claiming Indonesia’s pole-and-line tuna catch fell to 10,000 tonnes last year, which is just one-tenth of the total volume that is generally accepted and reflected in the most recent Government capture fisheries statistics for 2014.

While this low estimate clearly failed to incorporate the main pole-and-line fisheries management areas (FMAs) in Pacific archipelagic waters which account for most of the pole-and-line catch, the IPNLF acknowledges that these wildly different figures could lead to concerns in the supply chain.

Fortunately, a number of important findings from a recent study undertaken by IPNLF trustee Dr Tony Lewis shows that Indonesia’s pole-and-line catch has not declined to the low level reported.

Lewis has more than 40 years experience in all aspects of the tuna industry, originally in the Pacific Islands then South East Asia and later globally.

This latest piece of research was prompted by elevated skipjack pole-and-line catches in a few key production regions that were reported in the official statistics of Indonesia’s Directorate General for Capture Fisheries (DGCF).

The IPNLF found that that the country’s pole-and-line catch was over 100,000 tonnes last year and that 80 per cent of this total was accounted for by skipjack, yellowfin and bigeye tuna, which are the main species that are processed or canned.

Thus the estimated pole-and-line catch of these species for Indonesian Pacific waters was 113,678 tonnes in 2014. (The 20 per cent balance is accounted for by tongkol/bonito.)

Importantly, the research also finds that while the production from artisanal tuna fisheries in particular may be overestimated, relatively little of this catch by a large number of small fishing units enters commercial production supply chains. Instead, a large proportion of the catch is consumed fresh or processed for local consumption.

For example, in the Maluku Utara region the per capita consumption of fish is twice the national average, with skipjack widely consumed.

As a result, less than 15 per cent of Maluku Utara’s total skipjack production of 45,946 tonnes (2013) is frozen and traded elsewhere in Indonesia or exported. It should also be noted that just two-thirds of the region’s total skipjack production is caught by pole-and-line, with the remainder taken by purse seine, gillnets, handline and troll line.

Andrew Harvey, Indonesia Country Director for the IPNLF, comments: “While Indonesia’s reported pole-and-line catch appears to have fluctuated in recent years, it has certainly not fallen by the drastic levels that have been suggested in a few recent reports and is in no way an indication of declining stocks or the fishery’s potential. In addition to the local consumption findings, it is important to note that the reduction in the pole-and-line landings have coincided with the rapid growth of the purse seine catch.

“Over the past 10 years, the Government of Indonesia has pursued a strategy of ‘industrialisasi’ – the rapid industrialisation of its fishing sector. This has included promoting considerable investment into the large-scale fishing sector. However, thanks to the progressive attitude of its Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries (MMAF), the Government of Indonesia is now focused on promoting and expanding its small-scale fisheries, including its pole-and-line and handline sectors. We fully expect this to bear significant fruit over a realistic timescale, both commercially and for the wellbeing of coastal communities. The IPNLF is therefore investing heavily in assisting MMAF to improve fisheries governance in Indonesia, such as strengthening management systems, effort controls and enforcement strategies. These are steps that in the long term will benefit not just the pole-and-line and handline sectors, but all tuna fisheries in Indonesia.”

The IPNLF has played a pivotal role in many positive developments in the few short years that it has been active in Indonesia, including:

  • The formation of AP2HI, which represents the interests of the pole-and-line and handline sectors and is widely regarded as the most active fisheries association in Indonesia;
  • A reversal of governance policy to favour small-scale rather than industrialised fishing, with a focus on associated environmental and social benefits;
  • Bringing several international players, including buyers, to Indonesia and encouraging them to foster much closer contact with local producers;
  • Growing the market interest and demand for Indonesia’s pole-and-line and handline products; and
  • Facilitating a strong commitment from the government to develop tuna harvest strategies that consider and reflect the social, economic and ecological benefits of various tuna catching methods.

TheFishSite News Desk

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