Indonesia and eight other countries grouped under the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) established on Tuesday a regional working group on fisheries management that aims to sustain marine welfare around the world's third-largest ocean amid and post COVID-19 pandemic.
The initiative came from Indonesia, Bangladesh, Iran, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Oman, Tanzania and Thailand; nine country members of IORA -- an international organization comprising 22 states bordering the Indian Ocean -- as well as from the IORA Fisheries Support Unit (FSU), a think-tank under the organization that focuses on fishery issues.
It was inaugurated on Tuesday through the 1st Meeting of IORA Cluster Group on Fisheries Management (CFGM) held virtually, in which the Indonesian delegation was represented by the Foreign Ministry and the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry.
According to a statement published on the Foreign Ministry's website, the cluster group will perform duties related to discussion over the fisheries sector in the Indian Ocean.
Through this initiative, Indonesia hopes to manifest its leadership on marine and fisheries within the IORA forum, through which it also aims to strengthen its efforts in performing economic diplomacy, preventing illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, as well as improving fishermen’s welfare.
“We are facing COVID-19 as a common enemy. As an organization comprising countries in the Indian Ocean, the IORA must renavigate its focus toward marine cooperation, including in the fisheries sector,” said the Foreign Ministry’s Asia-Pacific and African affairs director general, Desra Percaya, during the meeting.
The newly established working group is expected to roll out concrete programs to support economic recovery after the pandemic, particularly in improving fishermen’s welfare, promoting marine tourism around the Indian Ocean and increasing trade and investment in the fisheries sector.
Separately, the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry’s capture fishery director general, Zulficar Mochtar, revealed that more than 3.5 million Indonesian fishermen had been impacted by the pandemic, which presented a major challenge for the fishermen in addition to illegal fishing, climate change, plastic waste and fish scarcity.
“With this collective effort [the initiative] through the IORA forum, we hope to see an improvement in food sustainability and poverty reduction within the marine communities,” he said.
According to the statement, the delegations produced several strategic documents in the meeting, including a draft on work programs that would be implemented in the short, medium and long term under the IORA mechanism.
Indonesia has been actively involved in IORA, including as the chair in 2015 to 2017, during which the country hosted the first IORA Summit in 2017 in Jakarta and produced the Jakarta Concord – an agreement to reinforce the commitment of IORA member countries to uphold the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) as the main norm in maintaining peace and stability in the Indian Ocean region.
The establishment of this new working group is also a follow up of the Jakarta Concord and the IORA Action Plan for 2017 to 2021. (asp)