by Hendra Siry (Contributor/Badan Riset Kelautan dan Perikanan)
After 27 years of its implementation, Government of Indonesia should revise the Presidential Decree No.39/1980 in relation to prohibiting trawl as fishing gear in the Indonesian waters. This is one of conclusions reached during the Fisheries Resources Management Workshop (Appresiasi Pengelolaan Sumberdaya Ikan) held on 14-16 August 2007 in Jakarta. The workshop discussed two important agendas; fishermen conflicts, and how to maximize fisheries management in boundary waters.
Freddy Numberi, Minister of Marine Affairs and Fisheries in his keynote speech stated that if a regulation no longer matches to the current situation and global challenges, it will be Government’s task to revise such outdated regulation. Numberi recommended avoiding rigidity in amending obsolete regulations, and promoted access for community as a key principle in developing revised regulations. These two recommendations need to apply to revising the regulation on trawl prohibition.
Essentially, a trawl is a sharp fishnet dragged through the water at great depths. Before 1980, trawl was the most profitable fishing gears for demersal fishes and shrimp. In 1980, the Government banned trawls as consequences of fisheries and coastal resources degradation, especially along the north Java coasts. Trawls were decided as the source of destruction and fisheries resources depletion.
However, trawl prohibition policy failed to recognize Government’s role in addressing such fishery and resources depletion. Government could have provided an opportunity for trawl users to modify their trawls to meet the legal fishing gear requirements. Technical constraints and lack of law enforcement remained as classic cases.
This policy then created confusion due to the lack of clear understanding of what a trawl really was, and what a modified trawl should look like. Trawl has been translated into Bahasa Indonesia as pukat harimau, which was incorrect meaning and inconsistent with the international standard. An opportunity to modify trawl had led to a race of technology inventions to trawl. There were various names and modifications for trawl, such as arad berpalang, and arad berpapan in north coast of Java, mini beam trawl in Probolinggo, cantrang in South Sulawesi and lampara dasar berpalang, lampara dasar berpapan in South and Central Kalimantan. There was big waves of modified trawls flooded the waters in various parts of the Indonesian coasts while fisheries depletion was still becoming worse and worse.
These nomenclatures were understood only by some local fishing communities, whilst not recognized by some others. It then became a source of fishermen conflicts because the first community could get legal permit for their gears, while for some others in different areas, these gears were still prohibited. It went to show the name was not recognized nationally. Furthermore, Ari Purbayanto, a fishing expert from the Bogor Agriculture University (IPB) explained during the workshop that there was really no significant difference between modified trawl and trawl.
In regard to the claim that trawl potentially destroyed coral reef, both Suseno (Director of Fisheries Resources) and Ari argued that most trawl users avoid fishing in the coral reef area to steer clear of the coral reef. Once the trawl is damaged, the cost to replace the nets is more expansive than the value of their catches. In fact, trawls help the upwelling process of nutrient in the sea bottom, which are essential for fishes living on or near the sea bottom (demersal). Therefore, they both urged a corrective action to clarify existing perception on trawl operation.
The chairman of Himpunan Nelayan Seluruh Indonesia added that re-permitting trawl can reduce the competition on modifying trawls. It will also diminish the jealousy amongst fishermen on fishing gears technology. The latter has been recognized as a major factor in fishermen conflicts.
To re-permit trawl, the regulation should consider incidental catch (by-catch) especially the endangered species, juvenile and fingerling fishes. Purwito Martosubroto, member of national stock assessment, advised that re-permitting trawl will not provide negative impact to coastal and fisheries resources. He also advised that the fishermen conflict led by competition in using latest fishing gears technology should not be in a form of multiplying the fishing gears per se. It should be combined with eco-friendly minded and responsible fisheries principles.