2015 is turning out to be a hallmark year for the Blue Swimmer Crab fishery in Indonesia. Historically marred with issues around a stagnant FIP, buy-in from stakeholders, and pilot projects not impacting the fishery past their funding. Indonesia started the year with 2 game changing ministerial decrees by Minister, Susi Pudjiastuti, banning undersized and berried crab in the first decree, and coastal trawlers and collector boats in the second decree across the country. This has breathed new life for sustainability initiatives in Indonesia, with Foundations and NGO’s lining-up to work with APRI. This blog post documents 3 key initiatives the FIP will look to implement this year: Control Documents, USAID-IMACS, and a rights-based management project being directed by Starling Resources (supported by Packard and Walton Foundations). Below are notes from the field.
Paramount to the APRI FIP this year will be implementing a Control Document system that aligns an industries procurement policy, with government regulations. A sticky point for the FIP has been getting fishery compliance at the mini-plant and fisherman level (especially for an open access fishery). That because BSC in Indonesia has no recent history of robust data collection or fishery management regimes, APRI’s efforts have been centered around building that capacity with MMAF. The ‘Control Documents’ addresses the supply chain by having an audited chain of custody from harvest to export, and supports the government by ensuring industry compliance. Failures of audits and non-compliance would mean access barriers to market. With some 35,000+ fishers, 400 mini plants, and almost 20 processor companies; APRI has a huge task ahead of them to try and keep everyone on an even playing field. However, APRI is at a vantage point because 90% of the raw material in Indonesia goes to APRI members, and most of that product goes for export to the US. By adopting an industry standard for sustainability they are able to impact significant changes in the supply chain. The implications of such an audit system will be felt across the region. Because an industry association cannot legally make explicit buyer preferences for a company or industry trade group without good cause, the preference itself needs to be based on an agreed industry standard (much like compliance to HACCP or ISO, and much like how ISSF operates). In that regard the Control Documents are being treated as a safety and quality issue that companies could rally behind, and help each other resolve sustainability issues. The development and design of the system couldn’t have been possible without the express efforts of SFP. Last week in APRI’s 2nd quarterly meeting, Juan Manuel Garcia of SFP presented the first draft of the control documents system. Juan brings experience to the table with in implementing Control Documents in crab and shrimp fisheries in Mexico.
Last month APRI was also the recipient of a contract extension from USAID-IMACS, for efforts in Kendari, SE Sulawesi. The extension entails strengthening of the I-FISH server, which is an online database that aggregates information from fishery for stakeholder decision-making. The long-term implication would be for the National government to adopt the system, so they could have up to date information across fishery sectors in real time. In addition to data inputs for the SPR stock assessment, APRI will also lead efforts to include vessel registry (of at least 200 boats), and log books for both fishers and correlating mini-plants. The inclusion of these data inputs dovetails our Control Document initiative nicely, in creating an official record of where the crab came from, whom bought it, where it’s picked, and where it will go for packing. APRI and team completed their first round of logbook training sessions with fishers and mini plants this week.
Walton and Packard Foundations are also banking in on the fisheries momentum. In a recent forum hosted by Starling Resources, comprised of past, future, and present participants in the APRI FIP, the group agreed to experiment a Theory of Change that addresses controversial issues around open access fisheries. The meeting has been the result of a prior 6-month independent assessment by researchers on the blue swimmer crab fishery in Indonesia. The theory prescribes a system of rights-based access to a fishery resource, robust enforcement, and healthy crab stocks. That access rights for a particular group of fishers, to a particular area, creates incentives for those fishers to steward and protect the resource. So that when crab stocks rejuvenate, those benefits are maintained within the community and not extracted from outside entities. This would then generate efficiencies, healthy crab stocks, and ultimately increased value of the fishery. That this value proposition opens up the door for financial institutes and the private sector to invest in transitioning the fishery to sustainable. How much of a return the investors would want is unknown, and what insurance policy could be taken out on that investment is unknown as well. If successful for a crab fishery, the intention is that the method could be used for other high value commodities such as tuna and shrimp, in other words we are beta testing. It’s a tall order for fishery managers to enforce this type of system with no prior experience in doing so, then ‘closing the door’ to particular resource where fishing traffic is rife, could create more social issues in the short-term than resolve. It’s unclear how much more value could be extracted given the current state of the market. Crab prices were at record highs last year, which did boost exports, but one begs to ask the question how much more crab can the market absorb and at how much more of a price premium? Is there a niche market for sustainable crab from Indonesian in the US? Would exporters want to get locked into that type of exclusive relationship? It may be too soon to tell. One thing is for sure we could always use better tools to address issues that are derived from an open access fishery. These issues impact the way fisher communities view the resource, and the health of that resource. Government capacity to manage the fishery has always been a hurdle since the beginning of the FIP. Which is what we hope this pilot project will begin to unravel.