The inadvertent capture of millions marine animals every year by the fisheries industry threatens biodiversity and food security, said experts at a fisheries forum Tuesday. “Bycatching”, as it is called, is one of the most urgent marine conservation and resource management issues today, said experts at the Coral Triangle Fishers Forum.
“Thousands of tons of `trash fish’ are caught in fishing nets and thrown back into the sea, either dead or dying,” said Keith Symington, the bycatch strategy leader of the World Wildlife Fund’s Coral Triangle Program. “This wasteful management can have a damaging effect on biodiversity, food security and the livelihood of millions of people.”
Animals from endangered species such as marine turtles, sharks, birds and billfish have been captured unintentionally by fishermen and the animals’ deaths have disturbed the marine life cycle and ecosystem, a Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry official said. Anang Noegroho, head of the ministry’s Center for Analysis and International Cooperation, said that 15 percent of every five-ton catch might be bycatch.
Commercial fishing wasted at least 27 tons of marine resources every year due to indiscriminate fishing. A lack of processing plants in fishing areas, particularly in eastern Indonesia, contributes to the problem. Most of the waste occurs in the Arafura Sea and Indian Ocean, he said. “A presidential decree requires that bycatch be used locally to feed people and fish, but it mostly goes to waste.”
Only a few fishermen currently process bycatch using traditional ways, he added. “If not addressed the problem may decrease biodiversity and disturb the marine life cycle,” he said. The World Wildlife Fund promotes the use of innovative fishing equipment to reduce marine turtle bycatch by Eastern and Western Pacific longline fishing fleets.
World Wildlife Fund Indonesia (WWF Indonesia) and the ministry initiated a bycatch mitigation program in 2006 that promotes circle hook use for tuna longline fishing in harbors in Benoa, Bali, and Bitung, North Sulawesi, WWF Indonesia head Efransjah said. “[It’s] a simple yet innovative hook that can greatly reduce the marine turtle bycatch as much as 80 percent without affecting fishing,” he added.
More processing plants should be developed near fishing areas to help residents produce food from the bycatch, Anang said. More than 100 fisheries industry representatives, researchers, academics and exporters and importers from Southeast Asian countries, Hong Kong, Japan, the EU and the US attended the three-day forum. The forum was organized by the World Wildlife Fund and the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry. Participants had an opportunity to learn from each other, explore ways to reduce bycatch and improve fishing practices through market-based partnerships, said a forum organizer.
Source: TheJakarta Post – June 16, 2010
By Desy Nurhayati