The Jakarta Post
Nine fishermen’s associations made up of 123 fishers at a fishery on Buru Island, Maluku, have been certified by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) with the ecolabel, which indicates that the associations’ catch meet the international best practices for sustainable fishing.
With the award, they become the first handline yellowfin tuna fishery in the world, and the second recipient in Indonesia, to be certified with the MSC standard.
“We’re extremely proud seeing the first Indonesian handline yellowfin tuna fishery meet the highest standard for sustainability. Indonesia is committed to supporting its small-scale fishers and sustainable tuna fisheries, and this MSC certification sets an example for other small-scale fisheries in Indonesia and around the world," Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Edhy Prabowo said as quoted by an MSC press release.
The recognition also marks another step toward sustainable fishing ahead of World Oceans Day on June 8, with small-scale fishermen as the backbone of such efforts.
Small-scale fishers make up around 90 percent of fishermen in Indonesia, according to Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry data in 2015. There are 572,270 fishing boats in the country, 506,720 of which are boats smaller than 5 gross tons (GT), while 43,696 are between 5 and 10 GT, 17,121 between 10 and 30 GT and 4,734 are big boats over 30 GT.
The award was the result of ongoing efforts initiated in 2012 by North America’s leading sushi-quality tuna company Anova, local processor Harta Samudra and the Indonesian Fisheries and Community Foundation (MDPI), which focuses on sustainable fisheries. They assisted Buru Island fishermen in getting Fair Trade certification in 2014 and forming Fair Trade Fishing associations, paving the way for the fishermen to attain the MSC certificate.
“This is a beautiful stop on the journey toward sustainable fisheries, one that we believe in deeply, and one for which there is still a lot of hard work ahead,” MDPI executive director Yasmine Simbolon said in a statement on May 13.
MDPI fisheries policy advisor Saut Tampubolon said the MSC certificate would allow Buru Island fishers to expand to a broader international market, including all of Europe, the United States and Russia, among other countries.
In the past, Buru Island fishers said they would only sell their fish in their own village or neighboring villages for lower prices and struggled to search for markets that would buy their catch.
Fisher Yusran Tomia said the MSC represented a beacon of hope for his family. “The most important thing that my family felt from [receiving the MSC certificate] is that there’s a big hope now with the broader market access, so no longer will we doubt where our fish is sold,” he said.
Around 600 yellowfin tuna fishers under the MDPI’s guidance in six provinces, including Maluku, are currently practicing handline fishing, and fishermen in at least three of the provinces have managed to export their fish to the US under the MDPI’s Fair Trade USA partnership.
Fish processing firm PT Harta Samudra director Robert Tjoanda said the fish they received from fishers, including those of Buru Island, were sent to countries like the US, Vietnam, Australia and Japan. The firm partnered with the MDPI in 2013 to improve fisheries for small-scale handline fishers in eastern Indonesia.
Indonesia was not alone in celebrating the award. “We congratulate Indonesia Handline Yellowfin tuna fishery and their partners for becoming MSC certified. They are demonstrating true leadership in sustainable fishing,” MSC Asia-Pacific director Patrick Caleo said in a press release.
However, Patrick said that, in order to maintain the certification, the Buru Island fishery would need to work with other fishing organizations and the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission on important management measures to safeguard yellowfin tuna stocks.
Editor's note: This article has been updated.