- Access to financing, the support of a peer group, and a general awareness of environmental problems are all factors that make it more likely a fisher will switch to using eco-friendly gear, a new study shows.
- The findings come from a three-month survey of nearly 650 blue swimming crab fishers on the north coast of the Indonesian island of Java.
- It found that those who made the switch also enjoyed significantly higher production and profitability, while also reducing their catch of egg-bearing female crabs, thus helping the sustainability of stocks.
- The study authors say these factors should provide valuable insights for fisheries policymakers in Indonesia and other less-industrialized countries.
JAKARTA — Small-scale fishers who have better access to financing, the support of a peer group, and a general awareness of environmental problems tend to be more likely to adopt eco-friendly fishing gear, a new study from Indonesia has found.
In turn, these same fishers largely enjoy better catches, improving both their welfare and the sustainability of the stocks they target, according to the findings by researchers from the Indonesian fisheries ministry and the national research agency.
“The results of our work are very relevant to the current management of sustainable fisheries in Indonesia,” corresponding author Carunia Mulya Firdausy, from the National Research and Innovation Agency (BRIN) and Tarumanagara University in Jakarta, told Mongabay in an email.
The study looked at 647 fishers who target blue swimming crabs off the north coast of the island of Java, the heart of Indonesia’s fishing industry. They found that fishers who opted to switch to less-destructive gear tended to be those who were involved in fisheries groups or cooperatives, had access to loans or a higher degree of financial capability, and were more aware of uncertainties in the climate, weather, and currents.
The study found that being a part of a fishing group encouraged individual fishers to use recommended equipment that’s less damaging to the environment. Having better access to credit from banks is also important for funding the purchase of the new equipment and upgrading their tools to meet environmentally friendly standards, the study says. It adds that a fisher’s perception of environmental uncertainty — the awareness that a changing climate and other factors have affected distribution and catch volumes — is also a key factor because it means they’re likely more aware of sustainable fishing practices and thus more likely to use the associated equipment.
Carunia said most Indonesian fishers still prefer cheaper gear that’s less eco-friendly, with the cost consideration outweighing any concerns about potential damage to the marine environment. As a result, many of the country’s regulated fishing areas are already showing indications of overexploitation.
The latest data released by the fisheries ministry put Indonesia’s estimated fish stock at 12 million metric tons in 2022, down almost 4% from the 12.5 million metric tons estimated in 2017. The data also showed that 53% of the country’s 11 fisheries management areas, known as WPPs, were now deemed “fully exploited,” indicating that more stringent monitoring is required, up from 44% in 2017.
The studied effects of using eco-friendly fishing gear included significantly higher production and profitability compared to fishers who operated destructive fishing equipment. The study says fishers attributed this trend to the susceptibility of the blue swimming crab fishery to changing weather conditions and global market demands.
Another positive effect the researchers observed was the reduced capture of egg-bearing female crabs when using eco-friendly gear compared to destructive equipment, meaning the sustainability of the resource is better protected.
However, the researchers found that buyer pressure and the complexity of fishing gear were both barriers to fishers making the switch. This indicates that a change in mindset accompanied by capacity building, peer cooperation, and a fair market incentive mechanism are all essential in improving fishers’ welfare, the study says.
“This is not only for the blue swimming crabs but also for other species,” Carunia said. “I think this is one reason why the sustainable blue economy is issued and aimed for.”
The Indonesian fisheries ministry has issued regulations on the sustainable management of lobster, crab and fish stocks. Specifically for the crab fishery, it emphasizes prohibitions on catching crabs smaller than a given size and catching egg-bearing females, in an effort to boost conservation and ecological balance.
Carunia and his team said the findings from their study should provide valuable insights for policymakers in Indonesia’s fisheries sector, and underscored the potential for eco-friendly practices to not only benefit the environment but also enhance the economic well-being of the people employed in the sector.
They said fisheries authorities in Indonesia and other less-industrialized countries should design effective strategies to encourage fishers to adopt eco-friendly practices. This includes promoting the positive impacts of making the switch, including highlighting the benefits both for fishers and the environment — a critical step in fostering a mindset shift toward sustainable fishing practices.
“We have already discussed these findings in our national research center, but have not yet presented them directly in front of the decision-makers or fisheries authorities,” Carunia said. “However, I am 1,000% sure that they know this problem very well. That is why we like to give them a wake-up call, so they will seriously give attention to solving the problems.”
Basten Gokkon is a senior staff writer for Indonesia at Mongabay. Find him on 𝕏 @bgokkon.
See more from this reporter:
Yulisti, M., Hidayat, A. S., Firdausy, C. M., Mu’awanah, U., Kurniasari, N., & Nurjati, E. (2023). Effects of eco-friendly fishing gears on fishermen’s welfare and sustainable fisheries: Lessons learned from Indonesia. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 198. doi:10.1016/j.marpolbul.2023.115888
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