A. Muh. Ibnu Aqil, Jakarta – Nearly half of Indonesia's wild fish stocks are overfished as the country struggles to meet its own fisheries targets, while some essential marine ecosystems are still left out of the expanding marine protected areas (MPAs), a recent study by World Resources Institute (WRI) Indonesia has found.
WRI Indonesia program director Arief Wijaya said that President Joko "Jokowi " Widodo, especially in his second term, was putting the focus on economics for his policies, including in the fisheries sector.
That policy direction is seeming to bear fruit, as Arief pointed out according to data gathered by the WRI Indonesia in the study titled "Trends in Marine Resources and Fisheries Management in Indonesia: A Review". Indonesia has become the second-largest seafood producer globally, after China, the study says.
However, a closer look at the numbers also revealed that as the proportion of wild-capture fish was stagnating, aquaculture continued to grow.
Arief pointed out that from 2000 to 2007 wild capture made up the bulk of fish production, but over the years, wild capture stagnated while aquaculture continued to grow.
In 2019 wild-capture fisheries accounted for 7.5 million tonnes with aquaculture at 16.3 million tonnes, according to Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry data.
"However, this is also a chance to improve Indonesia's aquaculture sector and to make it more sustainable. We need to ensure that aquaculture growth continues based on sustainability," Arief said during the launch of the report on Tuesday.
Despite the shift toward aquaculture, Indonesia's fisheries sector was not able reach its target of 38.3 million tonnes of production in 2019, with the actual production only amounting to 23.9 million tonnes.
Meanwhile, stagnating wild catches also came amid signs that Indonesia's wild fish stocks are starting to be depleted. Data on the utilization rate of the 11 fisheries management areas (WPP) in Indonesia showed that nearly half of Indonesia's wild fish stocks were exploited into being overfished in 2022.
"They are being exploited well beyond their capacity to regenerate. This is also perhaps one of the reasons why Indonesia's fishery sector has not been able to achieve its target," Arief said.
To protect marine biodiversity, the government has also continued to expand MPAs, from only about 5 million hectares in 2002 to around 23 million ha in 2019, with the government setting a target of 32.5 million ha of MPAs by 2030.
However, WRI Indonesia analysis also found that 84 percent of mangroves, 55 percent of seagrass, and 57 percent of coral reef ecosystems in Indonesia in 2019 were not yet included in the protected areas.
Arief said that adding more of those ecosystems into MPAs would be a step forward in keeping the marine resources intact.
Responding to the WRI Indonesia study, deputy director at the Maritime and Investment Affairs Coordinating Ministry, Andreas Hutahaean, said that he appreciated the report although it needed to be reconfirmed with the latest trends on the ground.
"When talking about statistical data, their validity needs to be proven," Andreas said.
He also said that the WRI Indonesia study had not been able to portray the conditions during the pandemic, which was a difficult time for people around the world, including in Indonesia's maritime sector.
He pointed out that at least four maritime subsectors, maritime tourism, maritime services, fisheries and aquaculture, as well as other maritime-related industries, experienced a drop in growth in 2020 due to the pandemic, but by 2021 they had started to recover.
"Let's hope 2022 is the last year we experience the COVID-19 [pandemic]," Andreas said.