More than Words

Historic policy win signals shifting views in Indonesian fisheries management

May 23, 2017

In Indonesia’s Anambas Islands, the village of Batu Belah has broken new ground in sustainable fisheries management with a February agreement signed by Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries (MMAF) field office Loka Kawasan Konservasi Perairan Nasional (LKKPN) Pekanbaru. Per the agreement, LKKPN Pekanbaru has legally entrusted Batu Belah to manage fishing in 2,246 acres of the Anambas Islands’ marine protected area, making the village its co-management partner. A closer look at the national fishing context that preceded the Anambas agreement underscores the significance of the formal partnership as a turning point for Indonesia’s coastal communities and government alike: Both are changing the way they manage small-scale fisheries, and they’re headed in the same direction.

Not long ago, Indonesia employed a system of open-access fishing. The national government gave no formal or legal recognition to communities who wanted to manage their fisheries using new schemes like rights-based fisheries management. To manage fishing access rather than leave it to open access, communities would have to operate within frameworks unofficially acknowledged by the government, such as traditional rights law. Agreements in which a government body formally recognized a community’s right to manage a fishery—like the one between Batu Belah and LKKPN Pekanbaru (a unit that reports to the national government)—were nonexistent.

Last year, however, the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries shifted the national government’s formal stance on rights-based, community fisheries management. In July 2016, MMAF passed Indonesia’s first regulation allowing communities to legally set up rights-based management in a fishery, specifically allotting it within marine protected areas (MPAs). To accompany the newly enacted regulation, the ministry drafted a set of guidelines for implementing rights-based fisheries management in MPAs, with input from Rare and other members of a rights-based fisheries management working group. Batu Belah is the first community to be granted rights to manage its fishery according to the new regulation, and it will be the first to put the new regulation and its operationalized guidelines into practice toward managed access within a marine protected area.

Batu Belah has worked with Rare to design a “managed access + reserve” area to manage small-scale fishing in Anambas. The managed access + reserve approach is a form of rights-based fisheries management that grants local fishers exclusive access to zones defined within or along marine protected areas, combining sustainable use with marine conservation to combat overfishing. The approach is Rare’s core answer to how coastal communities in countries like Indonesia, Brazil, Mozambique and the Philippines can sustainably manage small-scale fishing, a key provider of livelihood and food for coastal people in developing countries.

Rare in Indonesia has helped communities design 23 managed access + reserve areas in 11 of its 15 sites – Anambas being one of them. Rare’s policy team has worked for two years with the government to release regulations legalizing rights-based fisheries management. The organization has also worked with local partners at the grassroots level to build local support for managed access + reserves.

Rare and its partners, including LKKPN Pekanbaru as its implementing partner, carried out a Pride campaign in Anambas led by LKKPN staffer and Rare Fellow Agung Putra Utama. They applied social marketing techniques and behavioral science principles to inspire the local fishing constituency—including fishers, community members who depend on fishing, village and fishers group leaders, and local government leaders—to discuss and adopt managed access + reserves as their new resource management strategy. Rare encouraged communities like Batu Belah to self-organize by creating a fisher’s working group, which brought different members of the local fishing constituency together to design the managed access + reserve area. As part of the Anambas agreement, that working group is now the village organization legalized to carry out management on behalf of Batu Belah.

As a pioneer in setting up government-supported fisheries co-management initiatives, Batu Belah can set a precedent for other coastal communities poised to formally implement new strategies like rights-based fisheries management in their areas. With the Anambas agreement signed, those 11 communities working with Rare and many other coastal communities have momentum on which they can act to get legal backing for sustainable management strategies. Though Batu Belah is a single small village of 699 people and 400 fishers, it has made a huge legal step toward rights-based fisheries management with the proactive support of a local government body—a promising sign of a nation moving toward the sustainability it seeks.