Sat, Jan 19, 2019 - Page 9 News List

‘One fish at a time’: Indonesia’s tuna revival

By Hannah Summers  /  The Guardian

Indonesia, the world’s largest tuna fishing nation, has pulled out all the stops in recent years to transform the health of an industry blighted by depleted stocks and illegal poaching.

Measures by the government — which have even included the bombing of foreign vessels fishing illegally in Indonesian waters — have helped fish stocks more than double in the last five years.

But now the industry has reached another important milestone: One of Indonesia’s tuna fisheries has become the first in the nation — and second in Southeast Asia — to achieve the gold standard for sustainable practices.

The PT Crac Sorong pole-and-line skipjack and yellowfin tuna fishery, based in the province of West Papua, has been certified by the internationally recognized Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) standard for sustainable fishing.

The fishery, which has become a beacon of best practice in the region, runs 35 pole-and-line fishing vessels and employs 750 local fishers.

“The efforts made by the fishery to achieve MSC certification will help safeguard livelihoods, seafood supplies and healthy oceans for future generations,” MSC Asia-Pacific director Patrick Caleo said. “We hope to see other fisheries follow their lead by joining the global movement for seafood sustainability.”

PT Crac’s new status should create fresh opportunities within the export market. The UK’s Sainsbury’s and Switzerland’s largest retailer, Migros, are among companies that have already committed to the preferential sourcing of certified Indonesian pole-and-line products.

“We work hard to provide our customers with sustainable seafood products, which is why Migros has committed to preferentially sourcing MSC-certified one-by-one tuna from Indonesia,” said Adrian Lehmann, one of the company’s buyers.

Traditional pole-and-line fishing has been carried out in Indonesia for many generations. PT Crac chief executive Ali Wibisono said the fishery had employed sustainable practices since it was founded in 1975.

However, to meet the international standard it was necessary to collect extensive data, implementing an observer program on the vessels to report on tuna and baitfish catches, and interaction with vulnerable species.

“Having that first certification — hopefully, the first of many for Indonesia — is a proud moment and really puts us on the map. It is an important milestone for the country, but the sustainability of our resources goes beyond the certification,” Wibisono said.

“Our fisheries also have great importance for the people of Indonesia, providing many jobs, food and supporting livelihoods,” he added.

Wibisono said that 25 percent of the fishery’s tuna goes to the local market, while each of the 750 fishermen will take some of the catch home to their family.

The certification should boost the reputation of the Sorong product on the export market, as well as have a positive impact on the labor market locally.

“There will be work opportunities for fishermen in the pole-and-line fleets and also the workers in Sorong’s fish factory,” Wibisono said. “This will attract non-pole and line fisheries to follow our lead and improve the economic turnover in the region.”

Globally, tuna fisheries have an annual value of more than US$40 billion, making improved conservation of the species critical to sustaining marine ecosystems and coastal communities that rely on the industry for food and income.

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