Building on a partnership for Indonesian tuna sustainability

IPNLF Chairman John Burton reports back from the latest Bali Tuna Conference (BTC) and International Coastal Tuna Business Forum (ICTBF), explaining why such events underpin all the good work currently being done in Indonesia's one-by-one tuna fisheries
John Burton speaking to the delegation at the 5th International Coastal Tuna Business Forum

In May, along with a small handful of the IPNLF team and many other stakeholders – industry, governments and other NGOs – I attended the 2nd BTC and 5th ICTBF. This year, for the first time, these two important international tuna conferences were combined into a special two-day programme – attracting more than 250 attendees, which was a five-fold increase on the first event just five years ago.

The latest event, held in Bali, was again hosted by Indonesia’s Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries (MMAF) with IPNLF’s support. Indeed, the continued close collaboration between MMAF and IPNLF continues to provide a vital foundation for the development of sustainable one-by-one tuna fisheries in Indonesia, the world’s largest tuna fishing nation.

Because the management of tuna fisheries and the protection of their stocks are hugely complex undertakings, there was much to digest at the event and a lot of important elements to be deliberated. However, above everything else, I felt especially motivated by the unprecedented levels of collaboration and precompetitive support that I witnessed. Not only were there government, industry, NGOs and other stakeholders from Indonesia working very closely together; their endeavours were being further galvanised by tremendous support and engagement from well beyond the country’s shores – not least from the supply chain, including a number of our Members.

Conference panels highlighted the enormous progress that’s being made in Indonesia under the leadership of MMAF, and also recognised the tremendous opportunities available to sustainable and traceable tuna products. Together, we also identified a handful of priority actions – among them, the need for a review of fishery specific compliance and enforcement standards.

It was suggested on more than one occasion that Indonesia was not getting a fair value for its catch – a view that I share. At the same time, we heard that the rising demand for one-by-one caught tuna has the potential to create vital jobs within Indonesia’s coastal communities, while also contributing to sustainable fisheries and healthy seas. This indicates there are imbalances that continue to challenge tuna fisheries and the supply chain that must be addressed. Therefore, it’s vital we maintain the momentum and collaboration now seen in Indonesia. We must build upon its recent achievements in tackling illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU) in its waters, and ensure that the country’s leadership with regards to sustainability issues is recognised through an international standard such as the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). Furthermore, we need to make sure robust traceability systems are established that are – at a minimum – compliant with the MSC Chain of Custody Standard. 

Bali also presented an ideal window for IPNLF to reaffirm its commitment to Indonesia. The country is a keystone in the international tuna supply chain, landing approximately 100,000 tonnes of pole-and-line caught tuna alone. With our help, Indonesia has initiated a number of projects to support disadvantaged coastal communities that depend on the tuna fishery, among them the AP2HI task force that is doing such a great job driving the development of the country’s coastal tuna fisheries. In fact, AP2HI continues to be crucial to many of our efforts in Indonesia, with activities that include:

  • Improvements in catch verification systems, including the roll-out of additional vessel monitoring systems (VMS) and increases in the number of deployments of on-board observers on pole-and-line vessels
  • The design of standards and mechanisms for self-reporting pole-and-line fishery baitfish usage
  • Port sampling – providing data on catch composition, including target and by-catch species, which contribute towards the Indonesian tuna Fishery Improvement Project (FIP)

AP2HI is also the primary driver of the IPNLF-supported FIP covering pole-and-line and handline fisheries – targeting yellowfin and skipjack tuna in the Indian and Pacific Ocean plus associated waters. The aim of this FIP is to improve the Indonesian one-by-one tuna fishery’s sustainability and to meet the criteria for MSC certification. An independent evaluation of this FIP revealed that the fisheries are making exceptional progress, and are on target to achieving the MSC goal.

To support the advancement towards MSC certification, IPNLF and our collaborators have also initiated a portfolio of projects to enhance fishery governance, strengthen capacity and skills, minimise ecosystem impacts, and improve product traceability.

I'm confident that certification and robust traceability will ensure the full value of Indonesia’s fisheries are recognised at the same time as safeguarding the futures of coastal fishing communities. I also believe that the discussions we had in Bali this year, and will continue to have in the months and years ahead, will contribute greatly to these aims and ultimately benefit all stakeholders. After all, a viable industry offers more jobs and higher incomes for coastal communities. It ensures more, better quality tuna, which closes the gap between the supply and the growing global demand for these amazing fish.