After almost 3 years of implementing Fisheries Improvement Program through port sampling data collection in Manado, in 2020 MDPI began to identify other areas in North Sulawesi to expand fisheries management efforts. This is in line with MDPI’s new strategy, reconstructed to put more focus on community-based development through the Fisheries Community Organization (FCO) program. Known for its handline tuna fisher community, who also care about the sustainability of natural resources, Talawaan Bajo village in North Minahasa was deemed to have the potential to become a pioneer in sustainable fisheries in North Sulawesi.
Since our first fruitful encounter with local village government and community, MDPI has been able to carry out several assessment phases in ensuring that the programs planned for this area are in line with their socio-economic needs, while also staying in line with promoting sustainability, and generally be in support of better fisheries management efforts in Indonesia. Positive responses from the community, and tangible support from the government, have helped in reassuring MDPI to provide assistance to the fishing community here. For MDPI, living among our beneficiaries has been one of our key approaches in carrying out the work that we do, hence why starting July 2021 MDPI has officially established a site office in Talawaan Bajo, a coastal area also administratively registered as Minaesa, in Wori, North Minahasa, North Sulawesi.
Located across the popular Bunaken Island, Talawaan Bajo is home to 257 fisher families hailing from various regions across Sulawesi, 95% of whom are handline fishers. Their enthusiasm in supporting sustainable practices is clearly reflected in their active involvement in some of our earlier activities; from their willingness to take part in port sampling data collection and vessel technology implementation, being open to vessel registration process, to registering for fisheries business license (KUSUKA card). Over time, MDPI will ensure that all fishers in Talawaan Bajo and their vessels are properly registered, seeing as vessel documents are also one way to reduce Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing.
In addition to fishermen, fisher wives and children, as well as local government officials have been involved in other activities, such as celebrating World Fisheries Day 2020 and other awareness-raising activities with MDPI. At the end of August 2021, MDPI arranged the first movie night event with local kids and putting focus on the topic of turtle conservation; the large number of turtles that come to lay eggs along the coast of this village often prompts the children to play with the hatchlings that they find.
A series of programs relating to fisheries improvement and community organizing that have so far been successfully carried out in other MDPI sites will also be implemented in Minaesa. However, as a relatively new area for MDPI, we continue to assess and identify local potential and other suitability by gathering local wisdom throughout our time with this close-knit fishing community. We hope that this area will not only produce role-model fishermen, but can also put women and youths, even local government, at the forefront of fisheries management.