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Indonesian ombudsman asks minister to offer fishermen ‘exit strategy’ from seining

Wooden fishing rigs off Java’s coast. Photo: Rhett A. Butler

On Sunday, the Indonesian ombudsman asked the maritime affairs minister to help fishermen adapt to the government ban on seine and trawl fishing implemented in January.

“We assessed the ban on seine and trawl boats to be a good [policy], however it must be supported by an exit strategy to help the little fishermen go to sea without the intimidation of the ocean police,” ombudsman Danang Girindawardana told Sinar Harapan news after supervising a meeting between the ministry and fishermen’s representatives from Central Java province.

The bulk of Indonesia’s trawl and seine fleet is based on the island of Java. Provincial data show that 1,259 of 2,362 fishing boats in Central Java are either seiners or trawlers. Indonesia outlawed trawling in 1980, but the prohibition was weakly enforced until the government introduced a new regulation this year.

In late March, the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry offered Central Java an amnesty period until September during which seiners of 30 gross tons or less could continue to operate up to 12 miles from shore.

The ministry offered the amnesty so boat owners could settle their finances and replace their equipment, which the fishermen’s representatives have complained cost tens of thousands of dollars to procure and install. Ministry official Gellwyn Joseph said some state banks offered to lend a hand by restructuring or rescheduling loan payments.

On Sunday, the ombudsman put forward a few solutions. His key suggestion was for the ministry to measure the ban’s impact on small-scale fishermen and fishery companies. He added that the ministry’s amnesty offer to Central Java was not well-advertised and could result in mistaken arrests by the marine police.

Last Friday, the ministry’s fishing technology research division in Semarang told news portal Solopos that the office is testing out new “sustainable” nets for seiners to use instead. Officials did not mention when these nets would be made available.


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