The Importance of the Tropical Tuna Harvest Strategy for Indonesian Small-scale Fishers

oleh Juliette Ezdra

With the global demand for seafood increasing, the need to prioritize sustainable and responsible fisheries management has become increasingly urgent. An essential tool in achieving this goal is the development and implementation of a Harvest Strategy, which provides a comprehensive approach to guide decision-making in fisheries management. In Indonesia, a vast archipelagic country with abundant marine resources, robust Harvest Strategies are crucial to protect marine ecosystems and ensure the long-term viability of its fisheries. Indonesia has made significant progress in preserving its marine resources and recently launched a Harvest Strategy for Tropical Tuna in Indonesian Archipelagic Waters . The strategy aims to strike a balance between ecological conservation and the prosperity of Indonesian people. It is MDPI’s hope that the careful management of tuna resources will not only ensure their long-term availability but also create economic opportunities for coastal communities.

The importance for Indonesian small-scale fishers

Indonesia’s small-scale fishers play a crucial role in the country’s fisheries sector. Small fishing vessels (under 10 gross tons) represent nearly 90% of Indonesia’s fishing fleet and are responsible for more than half of the total catch, thus constituting the backbone of captured fisheries in the country. However, their vulnerability to changes in tuna populations necessitates careful management strategies to protect their livelihoods.

The Harvest Strategy for Tropical Tuna holds particular significance for Indonesian small-scale fishers. By encouraging sustainable tuna harvesting practices, the strategy could help secure their livelihoods while preserving the resource for future generations. The inclusion of small-scale fishers’ data strengthens the knowledge base, enhances their representation, fosters accountability, and promotes a sense of ownership among fishers and coastal communities. This collaborative effort highlights the importance of including diverse stakeholders and recognizing the significance of data from small-scale fishers in developing comprehensive and effective fisheries management strategies.

Since 2014, MDPI along with small-scale fishers have actively contributed to the development of the Harvest Strategy, providing valuable insights, technical assistance, and data collection efforts for the small-scale handline segment. This has helped address the specific complex dynamics of Indonesia’s small-scale fisheries. The integration of small-scale tuna fishers’ data into this Harvest Strategy has been a significant achievement, considering the limited data available for certain sectors of tuna fisheries, as well as the requirements, standards and technical challenges.

MDPI’s contributions to the Harvest Strategy extend beyond data provision to include scientific research, technical workshops, and capacity building efforts. MDPI’s early involvement as a data provider who had previously developed protocols to meet the requirements of Regional Fisheries Management Organizations, served as a catalyst for other governmental and non-governmental organizations to design data protocols that could contribute to the Harvest Strategy. MDPI’s expertise and commitment to sustainable fishing practices have facilitated evidence-based decision-making and fostered collaboration among stakeholders. “MDPI and other NGOs can contribute by filling the gaps that the government cannot fill,” said Toni Ruchimat, ex-Head of the Marine and Fisheries Research Center, BRIN.

In May 2023, Dr. Fayakun Satria, Head of the Marine and Fisheries Research Center, BRIN, highlighted that, “Without data from stakeholders, there is no Harvest Strategy. The Harvest Strategy will not succeed without collaboration.”

Wildan, Small-Scale Fisheries Lead for USAID Ber-IKAN, who worked at MDPI from 2013 to 2023, acknowledged the improvements made in tuna fisheries data through collaborations between various stakeholders, including the government, NGOs, and fisheries associations. He emphasized the importance of regularly discussing the Harvest Strategy and involving all parties, including businesses and fishers, to ensure shared understanding and active participation. In an interview with Mongabay in 2022, Wildan stated, “Through regular discussions on the Harvest Strategy, we hope that all stakeholders will be gradually engaged, including businesses and fishers. Given the highly scientific nature of this Harvest Strategy, it is not an easy task. It requires collective understanding, and considerable energy and time to achieve our goals.”

Benefits, challenges, and future perspectives

Implementing the Harvest Strategy for Tropical Tuna brings numerous benefits. It can help maintain fish populations at sustainable levels, which could help ensure a consistent supply of seafood, thus enhancing long-term food security and safeguarding the income and livelihoods of those dependent on the sector. Through the implementation of responsible fishing practices, a sustainable Harvest Strategy can also help protect non-target species, reduce bycatch, and minimize the impact of fishing on sensitive habitats, supporting the overall health of marine ecosystems and promoting biodiversity conservation.

To achieve these objectives, several key management priorities have been identified: restrictions on the use of fish aggregating devices (FADs), area closures to protect spawning grounds, and establishment of Total Allowable Catch limits.

With the Harvest Strategy for Tropical Tuna, Indonesia has a goal to maintain the tropical tuna stocks above 20% of the unfished level with a 90% probability, known as the limit reference point (LRP). The goal is to prevent overexploitation and ensure long-term sustainable catches. The target is based on stock assessments conducted in different regions within the Western and Central Pacific Ocean.

However, developing and implementing a Harvest Strategy is not without challenges. Data limitations, stakeholder engagement, and enforcement of regulations are among the obstacles faced. Robust data collection and monitoring systems remain essential for accurate stock assessments and effective decision-making. Engaging stakeholders, including fishing communities, in the implementation process is necessary to foster a sense of ownership and cooperation.

MDPI has been supporting the dissemination of information and socialization of the Harvest Strategy by the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries through the Fisheries Co-Management Committees[JE1] , platforms that address current fisheries-related issues and engage various stakeholders, including small-scale fishers. Besides, strong enforcement measures and effective compliance mechanisms are necessary to ensure adherence to regulations and prevent illegal fishing practices. Additionally, flexibility and continuous evaluation are required to adapt the Harvest Strategy to changing environmental conditions, such as climate change impacts and shifting fish distributions. As Indonesia continues to prioritize sustainability and address the challenges associated with fisheries management, including by implementing this newly published Harvest Strategy, it can set an example for other nations in the pursuit of responsible fishing practices. Looking ahead, ongoing efforts are necessary to effectively manage tuna resources, while ensuring that the voices of small-scale fishers are heard, and the needs coastal communities are addressed.


Notohamijoyo A., et al. 2020. “Sustainable fisheries subsidies for small scale fisheries in Indonesia”. ICESSD 2019.