The Jakarta Post
The Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry is granting limited use of cantrang, a kind of Danish seine net, a fishing instrument that has been previously identified as unsustainable and not environmentally friendly.
The concession has been granted only to small-scale fishermen whose finances are in dire straits as a result of large debt from bank loans used to finance the purchase of the equipment, according to a ministry official.
Gellwynn Jusuf, the ministry's director general for capture fisheries, said that the use of cantrang would only be tolerated until September this year, giving financially stricken fishermen an opportunity to ease into the blanket ban.
'[Maritime Affairs and Fisheries] Minister Susi [Pudjiastuti] has given them [fishermen] leeway until September to settle their finances and replace all their equipment with more sustainable equipment,' Gellwynn said on Thursday during a press conference in Jakarta.
The director general claimed that fishermen shelled out an average of Rp 1.1'1.3 billion (US$83.9'99.3 million) to acquire the notorious instrument.
As a solution to the fishermen's woes, the ministry revealed that a number of state banks would help in restructuring and rescheduling the loan repayment process.
'A number of state banks like [Bank Rakyat Indonesia] BRI, [Regional Development Bank] BPD and Bank Mandiri have agreed to help, as the ministry was unable to facilitate the replacement of fishing equipment,' Gellwynn told The Jakarta Post, adding that there was currently no method of helping those that received funding from loan sharks.
Gellwynn also said the ministry was planning to evaluate the legal use of cantrang in territorial waters within 12 miles from the coastline, which comes under the jurisdiction of local governments, thus urging full compliance of regulations.
'In principle, even the use of cantrang in shallow waters is prohibited, but we're still deliberating on the issue,' he said.
Cantrang were previously grouped under the category of instruments that Minister Susi had banned in Ministerial Regulation No. 2/2015, issued earlier in the year to enforce more sustainable fishing practices.
The regulation bans the use of all types of trawls and seine nets, which ministry officials argue are destructive of coral reefs and the seabed ecosystem in general.
The decision to tolerate the use of cantrang was made following a discussion on Wednesday with representatives from fishing unions in Central Java, who protested against Susi's ban on unsustainable fishing instruments.
The negotiation was mediated by members of the House of Representatives Commission IV, the legislative counterpart of the ministry.
According to Gellwynn, the point of contention on cantrang use is an old one: in line with regulations from 1980 and 1997, the instrument had only been allowed for vessels measuring under 5 gross tons (GT) with a 15-horsepower motor to ensure that small-scale fishermen could compete with larger fishing operations.
'But in practice, these small operations gradually transformed into larger ones using over-30 GT vessels. They had to mark down the size of their ships to keep using these instruments,' he argued, adding that horizontal conflicts emerged among regions as a side effect of local governments granting licenses for such cases.
'Most of these fishermen from Central Java are only trying to replicate the success of others that used the cantrang; they only wanted to stay competitive.'
Ministry data shows that cantrang use in Central Java continued to increase from 3,209 vessels in 2004 to 10,758 ships in 2015, resulting in local production from the sector shrinking by 45 percent from 281,267 tons of fish in 2002 to 153, 698 tons in 2007.
Meanwhile, Susi urged the fishermen and others with similar woes to promptly seek verification and register with officials so they could partake in a government program to replace their equipment and let them operate in waters that had been vacated by illegal fishers.
Susi argued Thursday that the decision would help relieve fishing grounds on the northern coast of Java from overfishing.
'This is one program we spoke with the House about. [...] Fishermen must remain in the exclusive economic zone [EEZ] and not intrude on other regional waters. We'll do this as soon as the verification process for the license moratorium is concluded,' she said.
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