About 3.7 million Indonesians make a living as fishermen. As many as 90 percent of them are small-scale fishermen or directly dependent on the small-scale fisheries sector.
The role of fishermen is not only pending in the fisheries lens. More than that, fishermen have a crucial role in the sociological framework. They are the foundation for life on the coast and small islands.
Even so, the fishing community has so far been marginal, especially in terms of access. Their access is limited to global markets and to credit. Limitations here and there make them inevitably sell their catch locally.
This condition causes the income of small-scale fishermen to fluctuate at a minimum range. Their low income is not commensurate with the economic value of the national fishery export market, which collectively gains IDR 73 trillion from 1.26 million tons of fish.
Observing this unequal comparison, it is appropriate for the state not only to stipulate, but also to review the supporting policies that will be able to prosper small-scale fishermen.
Small Fishermen Cannot Be Evicted
16 years ago, the government issued Law (UU) Number 27 of 2007 concerning Management of Coastal Areas and Small Islands (WP3K). Nine years later, Law Number 7 of 2016 concerning Empowerment of Fishermen, Fish Farmers and Salt Farmers was issued.
Both laws emphasize efforts to improve the welfare of coastal communities, including fishermen. The law is expected to also provide comprehensive protection for small-scale and traditional fishermen. However, this hope has not been realized to date.
Today, there are still many practices that allow the marginalization of small-scale fishermen. Marginalization triggers inequality between industrial fishermen and small-scale fishermen. In fact, a number of advocacy organizations often remind: small-scale fishermen that they must not be evicted from their traditional territories.
Two years ago, the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy published a study on ocean justice. In the study, the authors explore trends in the distribution of benefits and burdens from access to marine wealth.
From this study it can be seen how the concept of maritime justice is increasingly relevant to the momentum of accelerating development, including in the fisheries sector. Maritime justice is expected to encourage the realization of equality in fisheries management while reducing conflict.
The Indonesia Ocean Justice Initiative (IOJI) hopes that the study can be used as a guide for empowering small fishermen in the dynamics of Indonesian fisheries. Now, it is also important to review the impact of two government regulations related to small-scale fishermen: are these policies in line with the framework and goals of marine justice?
Power and Efforts Towards Marine Justice
In collaboration with the Pesisir Lestari Foundation (YPL), IOJI conducted a study of the two laws. The study focuses on five typologies of marine injustice that have existed and been experienced by fishermen.
The five are tenure injustice related to the utilization of sea space; injustice of economic benefits arising from sea development; unfair impact (policy) on fishermen; injustice related to the decline in ecosystem services; as well as injustice in inclusive governance and violations of human rights (HAM).
In a study entitled “Fishermen and Maritime Justice: Study of the Implementation of the Fisher Empowerment Law and the Coastal Management Law in Seven Locations”, IOJI together with YPL and supported by the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (KKP) conducted research in seven locations in seven districts.
Three of them are in Pulau Tiga District (Natuna Regency, Riau Islands Province), West Likupang District (North Minahasa Regency, North Sulawesi Province) and Nusalaut District (Central Maluku Regency, Maluku Province).
Press statement from the Minister of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Sakti Wahyu Trenggono following the launch of the study “Fishermen and Maritime Justice” on 10 November 2022. Credit: IOJI
Margaretha Quira, leader of the study team “Fishermen and Marine Justice, said the study departed from the concerns of coastal communities about policies that have the potential to harm and threaten their lives.
The concern is driven by the government’s focus, which in recent years has also taken advantage of the sea and coast as part of the national development concept. In practice, “development is carried out by adopting the blue economy concept which is claimed to be able to maintain the principles of sustainability in the seas and coasts,” said Mas Achmad.
Sustainable ocean economy or sustainable blue economy approaches, he said, then “of course it must be parallel and run in harmony with the spirit of all of us to realize aspects of social justice and ecological justice.”