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Local fishers say fishing for tuna has become more complicated. (Photo: YouTube, BBC)

Poor infrastructure and overfishing 'hampering' tuna industry

Click on the flag for more information about Indonesia INDONESIA
Tuesday, March 22, 2011, 23:50 (GMT + 9)

Insufficient investment in the country’s infrastructure and the ongoing blow of illegal fishing have both hampered Indonesia’s ability to become one of the world’s leading tuna producers, said Chairman of Indonesia’s Tuna Commission Purwito Martosubroto.

“This situation is regretful because Indonesia has the potential to be a top tuna exporter,” he lamented. 

Not only do the country’s waters provide an ideal habitat for tuna due to their high salinity levels, but also Indonesia is also close to Japan - the globe’s main tuna market, Purwito told. 

“Ironically, tuna products cannot be shipped directly to Japan because of transportation problems,” he noted, reports The Jakarta Post. 

Hartono, president director and owner of Indonesian tuna exporting firm PT Nutrindo Freshfood International, explained that he must ship products like his raw tuna and sashimi by air to Jakarta, despite high costs, before they can make their way to Japan. 

“I don’t know why it’s so expensive to ship goods to Jakarta,” he said.

Just two or three shipping companies send their products from Bitung to Jakarta, he told. 

Purwito said that government-led solutions could solve this transportation problem. For instance, in West Sumatra, a local government provided an airline with incentives to bring in passengers from Singapore so that on flights to Singapore the airplane could carry local products. 

“If a similar scheme could be implemented in Bitung, we might see transportation costs come down,” he remarked. 

Further, the government has failed to address the issue of public infrastructure, including electricity.

Another problem, according to Basmi Said, plant manager of PT Delta Pacific Indotama, is illegal fishing and its injurious effect on tuna supplies. While in 2007 and 2008 all raw tuna came from Bitung, Basmi’s company has since then had to import it from elsewhere in the country. 

He suspects that fishers sell their catch to foreign vessels to get a better price. 

Many blame the low figures of fish caught and traded through the Bitung seaport on overfishing. The numbers were 135,272 tonnes in 2007, 142,377 tonnes in 2008, 145,053 tonnes in 2009 and 146,940 tonnes last year.

Local fishers say fishing for tuna has become more complicated: where as in the 1980s they could catch yellowfin tuna 3 km offshore, they must now sail 64 km away. 

“We can’t compete with foreign vessels and their modern equipment so we have to find tuna in high seas,” said a Bitung fisher. 

Purwito believes that the regional government can help industry players if they work to improve local infrastructure, providing reliable electricity, and ask the central government to give stakeholders in Bitung's tuna industry incentives such as tax holidays. 

He also thinks the government ought to make its supervisory role more stringent and reduce as much as possible the presence of foreign vessels in territorial waters – efforts with which some say the government has already been relatively successful.  

By Natalia Real


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