Indonesian authorities have expressed concerns that allegations its longline vessels use dolphins meat as bait in tuna fishing could disrupt the local tuna export industry.
The allegations were made recently by the US-based Friends of the Sea organization and Earth Island Institute, which release Dolphin Safe labels for tuna products, indicating that tuna has been caught without harming or killing dolphins.
While the US is not Indonesia’s main tuna export destination, authorities have warned that the accusation could harm Indonesia’s tuna markets in other countries, especially Europe.
Until now, the eurozone has been among Indonesia’s top export destinations for Indonesian tuna products after Japan and South Korea.
“The NGOs [that made the allegations] are US-based, but they can put strong pressure on Europe,” Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry fishery resources director Agus Apun Budhiman said Wednesday in Jakarta.
“We don’t want these allegations to disrupt our tuna sales… If they continue to attack, we’ll take this case to the annual tuna meetings,” he said.
Agus was referring to the annual meetings of the West and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission, and the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna.
He said he was confident the commissions would support Indonesia in the case given the country’s important position in the global tuna production, with its waters, especially the Banda Sea, being the world’s “tuna barn”.
Agus said the groups have alleged that Indonesian longline vessels intentionally capture dolphins and use the meat for bait.
“But the pictures they used as evidence are of sharks, not dolphins,” he said.
“Anyone who understands how to fish for tuna knows there is no way dolphins are captured to be used as bait for tuna.”
Indonesia has enjoyed an increase in tuna exports along with increased tuna production over the past few years. In 2008, Indonesia produced 490,942 tons of tuna; in 2009 it produced 541,303 tons; and in 2010, 577,430 tons.