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EXCLUSIVE – How Indonesia uses technology to protect its waters and fishing industry

Indonesia is the world’s largest archipelagic state with over 10,000 islands. Nearly 70% of the total area of Indonesia lies next to the sea, giving it the second longest coastline in the world. On top of that, given the importance of the fishing industry to its economy, maritime affairs are vital to the country.

Earlier at the Indonesia OpenGov Leadership Forum 2018 held in Jakarta, the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries (MMAF) was recognised for its innovative and disruptive use of technology.

Mr Rifky Effendi Hardijanto, Secretary General of the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries, Indonesia

Earlier this year, it was reported that Indonesia is amid preparations for an integrated system to tackle IUU fishing. The new integrated system will first be tested in the Natuna Sea to strengthen patrolling efforts in the area by stationing a tanker to refuel patrol vessels.

Instead of having patrol vessels travel back and forth for refuelling, the standby tanker will allow patrol vessels to lengthen their missions from only a few days to a month. This will help authorities to increase efficiency of patrolling missions at a reduced cost.

OpenGov had the privilege to interview Mr Rifky Effendi Hardijanto, Secretary General of the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries, to find out more about the Ministry’s approach to tackle IUU fishing and the associated illegal activities and the role of technology in the Ministry’s efforts to protect Indonesia’s interest in marine affairs and fisheries.

Indonesia’s ongoing battle against IUU fishing

Indonesia has shown great commitment in combating IUU fishing and its associated illegal activities. When asked about the country’s approach to curb IUU fishing, Secretary General Mr Hardijanto shared with OpenGov the country’s journey and the role of digital technology in the Ministry’s work.

Upholding sovereignty through surveillance and law enforcement

According to Mr Hardijanto, upholding the country’s sovereignty has been a key focus of MMAF. The ability to tackle illegal fishing relies heavily on the country’s ability to protect its waters. As such, in 2014 and 2015, MMAF made great efforts to strengthen its surveillance fleets. With boosted surveillance capabilities, it helped the authorities to identify where the perpetrators of IUU fishing were operating.

“The next step is law enforcement,” Mr Hardijianto said.

Given the nature of illegal fishing, law enforcement would require international co-ordination and collective effort. According to Mr Hardijianto, Minister Susi Pudjiastuti met with Ambassadors of six neighboring countries to discuss the undesirable consequences of illegal fishing and reiterated Indonesia’s commitment to protect its waters through what is sometimes called “sinking the vessels” policy.

“Minister Susi gained full support from President Joko Widodo to establish a Task Force for combating Illegal Fishing, also known as Task Force 115. Minister Susi was then appointed as the Commander for Task Force 115, assisted by the Deputy Naval Staff as Vice Commander for daily operation,” he added.

Comprised of the MMAF, the Navy, the Water Police and Coast Guard under Indonesian National Police and the Attorney General’s Office among others, the multi-agency Task Force 115 was created to mobilise administrative, legal and maritime law enforcement (MLE) tools within the Indonesian Government to combat the threat of illegal fishing and associated crimes.

“Two third of our territory is covered by waters. If the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries does the surveillance alone, I do not think it will be enough. Hence, we need synergy among different agencies or even among countries,” he explained.

“This Task Force is expected to carry on sinking vessels policy to give a deterrent effect,” he said.

Fostering international cooperation against IUU fishing

In 2016, MMAF’s focus remained on maintaining its sovereignty through its “sinking vessels” policy. In addition, Minister Susi actively participated in various international fora to foster international cooperation on maritime sovereignty and surveillance. Such international fora include the World Economic Forum (WEF), the Our Ocean Conference, the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (CCPCJ) and many others.

“A key objective of Minister Susi’s effort to engage in international fora is to gain international support, especially in categorising IUU Fishing as a transnational organised crime,” said Secretary General.

In 2017, Indonesia stepped forward as the first nation in the world to publicly share Vessel Monitoring System data in a publicly-available data platform, Global Fishing Watch (GFW).

According to the GFW’s press release, the lack of transparency in the fishing industry hinders informed resource management decisions, resulting in rampant Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing and encourages other associated illegal activities such as drug and human trafficking.

“The outcome of this collaboration is a surveillance system that has the capability to analyse combined data from Vessel Monitoring System and Automatic Identification System. The platform displays data and information of the vessels, among others vessel identity, location, speed, and direction, which enable public to monitor illegal fishing activity,” he added.

Transparency through the public exchange of VMS data would not only assist countries in better monitoring their territorial waters, but also facilitate cooperative regional surveillance and enforcement. In this regard, Minister of Marine Affairs and Fisheries Susi Pudjiastuti also called on all coastal nations to follow Indonesia’s example. 

From sovereignty to sustainability

According to Mr Hardijianto, MMAF has forged partnership with the UK Space Agency and a British satellite company to support surveillance activities. The cooperation aims to enhance the safety, productivity and food security of Indonesian fishers and their communities by improving the effectiveness and process of monitoring and enforcement efforts of regulators through technology.

“This cooperation is highly beneficial for Indonesia, particularly for marine and fisheries resources surveillance. The historical data transmitted by the satellite could be analysed and utilised as preliminary basis in performing intercept operation,” he explained.

“As the outcome of maintaining sovereignty and surveillance, fish stocks rose and fisherman catches increased,” he said.

As the efforts of MMFA and the Task Force 115 began to pay off, MMAF’s began to focus more on sustainability. In 2017, the Ministry made efforts to promote sustainable development of the fisheries industry by supporting fishermen with more environmental friendly fishing gears and ensuring distribution flow.

At the same time, MMAF increased its focus on the aquaculture sector, such as developing offshore floating net cages and the use of biofloc [1] technology in catfish culturing. The Ministry also plays a role in educating the public about sustainable seafood consumption.

Biofloc

To assist in the documentation process of developments on outer islands as a basis for exporting Indonesia’s fisheries products, the Ministry also uses drones to monitor the construction progress, from ground breaking to completion.

 “In 2018, sustainability remains our focus,” said Mr Hardijianto.

This year, MMAF will continue to: (1) facilitate local fishermen to change their fishing gear by providing free and timely licensing facilities and (2) support aquaculture programs such as catfish culture by biofloc and off shore floating net cage.

Furthermore, Mr Hardijianto stated that Indonesia remains committed to its fight against IUU fishing through active participation in international fora and engagements with related international institutions or agencies.

Using technology to engage the fishing community

According to Mr Hardijianto, the Ministry uses technology and social media to facilitate citizen engagement and collect public feedback.

“Stakeholders, especially fishers and fish farmers, can also use social media to inform the ministry about their needs in conducting fisheries-related activities,” he said.

In addition, MMFA is encouraging fishers to use its online portals, such as the license portal, to access public service.

“With digital transformation, everything turns faster and more efficient. In addition to the development of information technology, the Ministry is now digitialising our licensing services for fisheries business.”

[1] Biofloc technology is based on recycling of waste nutrients, in particular nitrogen, into microbial biomass that can be used in situ by the cultured animals or be harvested and processed into feed ingredients. It is an eco-friendly technology which boosts productivity, while reducing environmental impact.

All images are provided by the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries.

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