Government extends use of trawls for fishermen

Since the imposition of the ban on the use of trawls in January, fishermen have been complaining of a drop in income and their boats remaining idle. The policy posed difficulties to the fishermen to catch fish.
Jakarta (ANTARA News) - After imposing a ban on the use of trawls, the government announced on Wednesday that it will allow fishermen in Central Java to again use them to catch fish until the end of this year.

Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti stated that the government had finally decided to allow fishermen to use trawls, or cantrang, as a fishing tool until the end of 2017.

The minister made the remarks after meeting President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) at the Presidential Palace in Jakarta on Wednesday.

Since the imposition of the ban on the use of trawls in January, fishermen have been complaining of a drop in income and their boats remaining idle. The policy posed difficulties to the fishermen to catch fish.

"The National Awakening Party (PKB) and I really wanted to fight for the fate of fishermen since most members of the PKB are fishermen. They have lodged complaints and voiced their dissent against the policies of the maritime affairs and fisheries (KKP) minister. The policies run counter to their efforts to improve their welfare and prosperity," PKB Chairman Muhaimin Iskandar remarked during a dialog with fishermen at his office in Jakarta on Tuesday (May 2).

Regulation of the Minister of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Number 1/PERMEN-KP/2015 on Prohibition of the Use of Trawls and Seine Nets in the Fishery Management Area of the Republic of Indonesia has both pros and cons.

Iskandar suggested that the minister should directly meet and hold a dialog with the fishermen, so that the minister would be able to gauge the real conditions and problems being faced by the fishermen.

"I am prepared to accompany the minister during the dialog, which is very important, to know the fishermens problems," Iskandar remarked.

The fishermen also pointed out that the police had arrested members of the fishing community who were still operating trawls to catch fish.

Iskandar appealed to the police to release them or to impose a ban on them from leaving the city.

"If the police need a guarantee, I am prepared to provide it. If they are arrested, what are their families going to eat?" Iskandar questioned.

The fishermen have not gone to fish in the sea on their small fishing boats, since until now, they had used trawls, and several of them were arrested for using the tools. Thus, the fishermen will laud the minister if she puts an end to the ban.

However, Maritime and Fisheries observer Muhammad Hasan of North Malukus Muhammadiyah University said the government should uphold its ban on the use of trawls, as it has been regulated in Ministers Regulation Number 1/PERMEN-KP/2015.

"President Jokowi needs to be consistent in his initial approach to support the ban on the use of trawls," Hasan noted in Ternate, on Friday (April 28).

According to Hasan, the use of trawls enables fishermen to catch more fish but they significantly damage the environment since they not only trap consumable fish but also the small fish, young crabs, and coral reefs.

In the long run, the use of trawls will lead to the extinction of fish and other marine biota, which will in turn pose difficulties to the fishermen to catch fish as their main source of income.

Minister Susi Pudjiastuti said on Friday that trawls are banned since the fishing equipment is dragged across the seabed, thereby harming the marine ecosystem. "We agree that the trawls are dragged across the seabed, and hence, they are destructive," she said in a written statement.

Pudjiastuti said the use of trawls, locally known as "cantrang," could damage the ecosystem, which is a habitat for the organisms that the fish feed on, and so, it could reduce the productivity of the seabed.

Cantrang could also net several types of fish of varying sizes, and hence, its use runs counter to the principle of sustainability and the Indonesian fishery policy. "Actually, several fishermen have already switched to using other equipment. Cantrang is no longer used by small fishermen, but big players and several of them also use gillnet and purse seine, and hence, its use is not yet over," she revealed.

However, the government continues to be urged to legalize the use of trawls as a legitimate fishing tool for fishermen, because the cantrang ban is considered to have a direct impact on the fishermens economy, particularly in Central Java.

"Fishermen have made optimal efforts to legalize its use. They have met President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) and have filed a lawsuit to the Supreme Court and the Ombudsmen, but unfortunately everything has failed," a member of Commission B of Central Java Regional Legislative Assembly (DPRD), Riyono, stated in a release on Saturday (April 29).

According to Riyono, who is also a PKS party politician, the ban is considered to be impartial to fishermen. It has caused loss to around 200 thousand small fishermen, ship laborers, small fish traders, and porters along Central Java coastal areas.

President Jokowi has earlier promised to seek a solution to the ban imposed on fishermen. "The government will find the best solution for fishermen," President Jokowi stated after inaugurating the start of the construction of rusunami, or subsidized low-cost apartments, with ownership rights, in Ciputat, South Tangerang, on Thursday (April 27).

The president claimed he had received several reports on protests lodged by fishermen over the ban on the use of trawls. "I will check the condition on the field first. I will evaluate the policy adopted by the maritime affairs and fisheries minister, but believe me, we will offer the best solution to fishermen," the president emphasized.

He admitted to have not yet met Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti. "I have heard one or two (reports) about it. However, I have not yet spoken to the maritime affairs and fisheries minister. I will announce it later what type of policy regarding trawls will be adopted after meeting the minister," Jokowi noted.

Minister Pudjiastuti claimed she has met with the president. "I met the president. I have been requesting an extension period and directives from the president since Sunday. We have extended the period of cantrang use until the end of 2017. This is mainly for fishermen in the Central Java region," she stated.

The minister promised to distribute fishing tools to replace cantrang to the fishermen soon. "Ships under 10 GT will receive the replacement during this time but not the bigger ones. Hence, we would provide assistance to banks," said Pudjiastuti.

The government had not only banned but had also offered solutions, such as providing ships below 10 GT and replacing the fishermens fishing equipment, with the expenses being borne by it.(*)