Illegal Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) Cause Concern: North Maluku Government and Fishers Take Action

(Quoted from a Mongabay article by Machmud Ichi on February 17, 2023. Original article:

The installation of FADs has been regulated by government policies since 1997. The Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries periodically updates regulations regarding FAD placement permits, including the latest version with the Ministerial Decree no. 18 of 2021. Despite being regulated for decades, thousands of unlicensed illegal FADs are still floating in Indonesian waters.

Unregulated FADs often create problems among stakeholders. Among fishers, a high number of illegal FADs result in uneven fish distribution, longer fishing times, and decreasing fish size. Many of these FADs also obstruct shipping lines, causing problems for boat owners.

The North Maluku Department of Marine Affairs and Fisheries (DKP) decided to take firm action against illegal FADs that do not comply with regulations. At the end of 2022, they removed illegal FADs in the Obi Strait with the help of the Indonesian Navy and local fishers.

“These unregulated FADs were placed two to five miles from the coastline, while regulations require a distance of at least ten miles. That is why we removed them,” said Abdullah Assegaf, Head of North Maluku DKP.

After removing the unregulated FADs, they discovered that most of them are owned by big corporations from outside North Maluku. Sarno La Jiwa, a local fisher from Bisa Island, added that purse seine vessels, owners of the unregulated FADs, have disturbed fishing activities within the region. This condition has encouraged the local fishers to be part of the solution. They applied for a FAD permit from the government, with the support from Yayasan Masyarakat Dan Perikanan Indonesia (MDPI). Their FAD was claimed to be the first legally licensed FAD in North Maluku, and possibly in Indonesia.

“The FADs that we installed must be registered. We do not want to own anything illegal, because Fair Trade certification has taught us to implement legal fishing activities,” explained Sarno.

The registration process took seven months until the Ministry issued the FAD permit (SIPR) on December 21, 2022. During that period, MDPI facilitated the time-consuming registration process for the FAD owned by the Tuna Bisa Mandioli Cooperative: from obtaining basic legal document such as the Marine Space Utilization Activities Permit (PKKPRL), to supporting documents like tidal data, direction and current velocity data, wave height, ocean depth map, and socio-economic data.

“This may be the first legal FAD in Indonesia,” added Putra Satria Timur, Fisheries Lead at MDPI.

This initiative is expected to set an example for other stakeholders in Indonesia to register their FADs. Registered FADs can support the legality of fish caught for ecolabel certification requirements, which may benefit local fishers sustainably and financially.

“Our focus now is to implement the ministerial decree No. 18 of 2021 in North Maluku. We need to do that because we can already feel tensions between local fishers and fishers from outside North Maluku with their unregulated FADs,” added Hamka Karapesina from the Indonesian Fishers Association, North Maluku Chapter.