Indonesia is one of the most biodiverse places on the planet, and with almost 34,000 miles of coastline, its rich seas provide the basis for a huge fishing economy. As the second largest producer of seafood globally, Indonesia’s seafood export revenue exceeds $5 billion and the industry employs over 9 million people. It’s even estimated that a further $2.3 billion in revenue is possible with sustainable management.
This is a huge industry with its own battles to fight, including the threat of illegal fishing, declining fish stocks, and ecosystem degradation—and this has people far and wide taking notice. Conservation NGOs large and small, government bodies, philanthropic entities, and industry have all turned their eyes to this island nation, creating a hotbed of international investment in marine conservation and fisheries management—with NAI in the middle of much of it.
Like Indonesia itself, this is a growing and varied landscape, so we wanted to run through some groups and projects that give a good overview of the broad working being done and how our own work overlaps with these initiatives.
The Indonesian government is at the forefront of much of the work being done to support coastal communities and fisheries resources. The Minister of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Susi Pudjiastuti, has been driving a crackdown on illegal fishing, even seizing law-breaking vessels and blowing them up. She’s also pushed some progressive legislation through, including a halt on new licenses to ex-foreign fishing vessels and banning at-sea transshipment in Indonesia’s territorial waters.
Working on the ground in Sumbawa, we’ve worked quite closely with the local government through infrastructure development and permitting. Over the past several years, we’ve established a professional working relationship, rallying around the tangible benefits of our work—including employment and well-managed fisheries.
We’ve even seen some recent cross-government collaborations, including one between Indonesia and Australia to work on compliance measures to strengthen Indonesia’s fisheries. Earlier this month, Japan and Indonesia agreed to work together on developing infrastructure and promoting the fishing industry on six outer Indonesian islands. Our investment in infrastructure on Sumbawa mirrors this work; our community fisheries center aims to improve livelihoods through job creation and access to services like gear shops and technology and education centers.
Through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the U.S. government has also been shifting attention to Indonesia’s fisheries. USAID has partnered with various organizations to improve traceability and implement catch documentation systems, including with Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program, the International Pole and Line Foundation, and Inmarsat, a telecommunications company. Most recently, our partner FishWise has taken the first steps on an extensive traceability partnership with USAID that includes the Walton, Packard, and Moore Foundations, as well as state governments and agencies.
Traceability is a hot topic right now among governments, and no doubt Indonesia’s. The Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries has partnered with Global Fishing Watch (GFW) to make Indonesia the first country to publicly release its vessel monitoring system data. This includes data on vessels within NAI’s supply chain, as we have also partnered with GFW to implement vessel tracking systems and bolster our supply chain traceability. Contributing to this effort is just one way we’re acting on our commitment for greater transparency in the seafood industry and is a great demonstration of what multi-stakeholder collaboration can achieve.
We could write multiple blogs on NGO work in Indonesia, but for the sake of this post we will keep our focus narrow. Some key players operating in the region include Rare and Masyarakat dan Perikanan Indonesia (MDPI).
Rare works in fishing communities worldwide to shift current practices to more sustainable methods, and their work in Indonesia is largely centered on the Fish Forever program, a partnership between Rare, the Environmental Defense Fund, and the Sustainable Fisheries Group at UC Santa Barbara. Fish Forever works directly with local communities to empower them to take ownership of their resources and manage them sustainably. Sound familiar? That’s because many of the theoretical elements behind Rare’s work have helped inform our own model.
MDPI does similar work, with the core of their programs focused on fishery improvement projects and engaging players throughout the supply chain to support overall improvement. Most recently, MDPI, along with Wageningen University, USAID Oceans, and the Walton Family Foundation hosted a think tank for small scale fisheries in Bali, and they have also partnered with the Marine Stewardship Council and the International Pole and Line Foundation on various initiatives.
Along with the sustainability work we’re tackling with our NGO partner FishWise, NAI is a member of Sustainable Fisheries Partnership’s supply chain roundtables focused on Indonesian grouper/snapper and tuna fisheries. These roundtables are devoted to aligning multi-stakeholder groups around pre-competitive approaches to improvement, including fisheries improvement projects. Another NGO initiative we have been tracking and plan to engage in includes the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation’s upcoming workshops on tuna management.
Much of this NGO work wouldn’t be possible without philanthropic investment. Overall, four large players in the philanthropic field are important to look at: The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, The Walton Foundation, The Packard Foundation, and the Meloy Fund.
The Moore Foundation provides funding for numerous projects devoted to sustaining Indonesia’s marine resources, including one with the International Pole and Line Foundation to advance data collection and verification for pole-and-line and handline tuna fisheries.
Walton itself has a five-year strategy for sustainable fisheries management specifically in Indonesia, which includes investing $32 million through the end of 2020 on projects that involve collaboration with government, NGOs, and business.
Packard’s new Global Seafood Markets Strategy is another five-year plan that aims to set the path for sound marine resource management in six countries that account for both high marine biodiversity and seafood production—Indonesia being one of them.
Different in setup but similar in goals, the Meloy Fund is a $20 million impact investment fund that provides equity to sustainable fishing enterprises in the Philippines and Indonesia. The fund—which officially launched this past August—is managed by Rare, and the investors and partners include the Global Environment Facility, Conservation International, and JPMorgan Chase & Co.
We’ve launched into the impact investment world ourselves. Aavishkaar Venture Management, an Indian venture capital firm focused on building sustainable enterprises in emerging economies, invested $2.1 million in our community fishery center. This represented the firm’s first investment of their international Frontier Fund and their first in Indonesia. Aavishkaar is particularly focused on scalable projects—through our fishery center, and overall management model, we aim to make this ambition a reality.
At the intersection of so many of these projects lies industry. Some industry members are pursuing more traditional sustainability tools, like certification, while others, like ourselves, are trying new models for sustainability improvements. One such example is the collaboration between US-based company Salty Girl Seafood, Rare, Seafood Watch, and the Asian Seafood Improvement Collaborative (ASIC), which aims to improve fishing practices and fisher livelihoods by leveraging Salty Girl’s business relationships to bring small-scale product to market. Likewise, NAI’s own partnerships with several industry-leading U.S. retailers have facilitated artisanal fishers selling their high-quality catch into more lucrative market channels.
Along similar lines of opening market access for Indonesian fisheries, the popular Marine Stewardship Council logo may soon find a home on a segment of Indonesian skipjack and yellowfin tuna fisheries, as seafood processor and exporter PT Citraraja Ampat Canning has entered certification.
For over ten years, we’ve been on the ground in the unique, rich ecosystem of Indonesia, working to establish and strengthen our community-based, commercially-sponsored fishery management model, investing in improvements to fishing practices, and finding ways to bring that product into international markets. We are getting closer than ever to our vision of comprehensive, enduring sustainability that benefits people and the planet.
Clearly, there is a wealth of resources flowing into Indonesia right now for fisheries improvement, and we’ve only touched the surface of everything that’s happening. In the end, all of these initiatives are striving for the same goal: healthy seas that support productive fisheries, and responsible community development for those dependent on these resources. We look forward to continuing to grow our partnerships and collaborations with all of these stakeholders to achieve these ambitions.