USAID Oceans Shares Lessons Learned in Advancing Sustainable Practices in Indonesia’s Fisheries

USAID Oceans’ partners at the Bitung Fishing Port log into their online traceability databases at their Fisheries Monitoring Center. Photo: USAID Oceans/F Maruf

Do you know where your seafood comes from? Maybe you know the region or country where it was caught, but what about the specific body of water? And what about the type of gear used to catch it? What do you know about the journey that fish made from the sea to your plate? Do you know if it was sustainable?

Electronic catch documentation and traceability, or eCDT, seeks to answer these questions, not only for consumers, but for fisheries management organizations worldwide. Using eCDT systems is a proven way to curb illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing; conserve marine biodiversity; and promote human welfare and fair labor in the industry. That is why, for the past five years, the USAID Oceans and Fisheries Partnership (USAID Oceans) has been working in two “learning sites” in the Asia Pacific region—Bitung, Indonesia, and General Santos City, the Philippines,—to develop robust eCDT systems that collect essential data to ensure the legality of seafood within these supply chains and inform and improve fisheries management practices to conserve precious marine ecosystems.

Now in its final year of implementation, USAID Oceans is looking to partners to continue working to advance eCDT and sustainable fisheries management practices. That is why, on February 19, 2020, government officials, NGOs, and private sector leaders in the seafood industry gathered in Jakarta, Indonesia, for the USAID Oceans Indonesia Lessons Learned Showcase. The event, hosted by the Indonesian Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries (MMAF), was an opportunity for USAID Oceans’ local and regional public and private sector partners to share their experiences and best practices from the project and to voice plans, commitments, and next steps to continue working towards shared objectives.

Bitung, located in North Sulawesi Province, was selected as a project learning site in 2015. Bitung houses the main fishing port in the province, which provides services to Indonesian fishing vessels operated in the Sulawesi and Maluku Seas and Pacific Ocean. Since the project’s launch, USAID Oceans has worked closely with MMAF; the Coral Triangle Initiative for Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Security (CTI-CFF); local “First Movers;” and technology partners to achieve common goals.

USAID Oceans activities in Bitung focused on implementing eCDT systems to trace seafood products from the point-of-catch through the supply chain; collecting data and drafting guidance to inform management practices; and identifying and addressing human welfare concerns to support policy development and interventions that promote gender equity. Bitung has served as a hub for regional knowledge sharing and for expanding and replicating best practices in fisheries management and traceability throughout the seafood supply chain.

One of the projects’ noteworthy accomplishments in Indonesia was the development of a “Sustainable Fisheries Management Plan for Fisheries Management Area 716”—an area in Bitung with an existing infrastructure for managing fisheries and substantial marine biodiversity. Other key achievements recognized at the showcase included advancements to MMAF’s existing traceability system, STELINA; launch of a Fisheries Monitoring Center in Jakarta; and a reinforced commitment to gender equity through involvement of local gender champions and development of a national gender roadmap.

At the event, Ms. Celly Catharina from USAID Indonesia recognized these accomplishments and more. “Over the past five years USAID Oceans has piloted four eCDT technologies that are now being used throughout the supply chain in Indonesia; supported the use of eCDT data to improve fisheries management for MMAF, small- and large-scale fishers, and processing companies; and conducted trainings for nearly 40 women working throughout the seafood supply chain as fishers, traders, extension agents, and within processing companies. These trainings built women’s capacity for financial management and helped establish a network to advocate for recognition of and policies to support women’s essential role in the seafood industry,” she said.

The Lessons Learned Showcase celebrated the legacy and expansion of learning site activities beyond the close of the project and throughout Indonesia. USAID Oceans’ partners from across the region attended the event, including representatives from CTI-CFF; private sector technology firms; the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center; and the US government. Following the project’s close, USAID Oceans looks to these partners to carry forward project initiatives well into the future.

By transitioning the project’s work to advance eCDT and promote sustainable management of the region’s fisheries to local partners, USAID Oceans is ensuring sustained efforts to protect valuable natural resources. The continued use of eCDT systems paired with an ecosystem approach to fisheries management will allow partners in Indonesia to compile and analyze essential data to guide practices that are sustainable and improve both national fish stocks and the millions of livelihoods that depend on them.