Turning Blue Indonesian style

The Jakarta Post reported on a special presentation on the sidelines of the current five-day session of the 140-member FAO Committee on Fisheries that just got underway in Rome. On this occasion Indonesia presented the blue economy concept as part of its campaign to convince the market that it is striving hard to implement sustainable fisheries. Here is the message it sent into the world : the Blue Economy Development Program in East Lombok and Nusa Penida features an integrated, upstream and downstream approach and covers tuna fisheries, aquacultures, marine tourism, salt and pearl industries.


Achmad Poernomo, Chief Research and Development of the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries emphasized that the Lombok project, implemented in cooperation with FAO, is based on the principles of sustainability, nature’s efficiency, zero waste and social inclusiveness. Poernomo explained that fish exports to Europe, Indonesia‘s second largest market after Japan and the United States, have been put under increasingly stringent scrutiny, subjected to sustainability certification.

One may wonder why such scrutiny is so selectively applied to only 15 percent of the fish that is flown out of the country but sustainability is not the issue. To the Indonesian Government the term Blue Economy refers to economic growth from the exploitation of the sea…

FAO Director of Fisheries and Aquaculture Resources Indroyono Susilo, who chaired the special session, further declared that Indonesia’s decision to pursue the blue-growth concept in marine fisheries was quite strategic. “The rationale of this blue economy concept is that three quarters of the earth’s surface is covered by oceans and seas, which are both an engine for global economic growth and a key source of food security,” he pointed out.

We do not doubt a moment that these gentlemen are well meaning people but we must note that these official declarations show a presumption that the ocean is an endless resource where new fish can always be found. Not a single word is being said about protecting areas where fishing should be limited to make sure fish populations will grow back.

Indonesian policymakers and bureaucrats always manage to master the necessary jargon but they are equally prone to self deception. Indonesian schools turn out graduates who are perfectly task oriented but never learned to focus on results. Once the goals have been identified and an agenda of grand designs has been announced, problems are considered to have been resolved already. Since the road map is there the destination has been reached.

Meanwhile industrial long-line overfishing remains a big problem. All year long huge quantities of tuna are airlifted to Japan but nowadays the small scale fishermen from  our own village who go to sea in their traditional outriggers  return with a catch that is too small to even feed their own family.



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