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Indonesia Ambitious On Pole-and-Line Tuna, But Reliable Data Is Lacking Indonesia, August 29, 12

Major retailers and tuna brands are always looking to find new ways to meet consumer demand, and the latest trend to source from eco-friendly fishery methods has Indonesia working hard to boost its presence in the international market. By promoting its traditional pole-and-line fishing industry, it hopes to become a top supplier of this sustainably caught tuna – whether or not its aspirations are realistic or if it can be profitable remains uncertain as the developing country has no idea of its annual pole-and-line tuna catch.

“Today, Indonesian fishers and the industry don’t distinguish between pole-and-line and purse seine caught tuna, so a big volume of pole-and-line tuna is estimated to be sold as purse seine tuna,” said Rusnadi Padjung, deputy assistant for investment with the Indonesian Ministry for Regional Development (KPDT), in an interview with Seafood Source.

According to Padjung, the annual catch of skipjack tuna in Indonesian waters is between 250,000 and 350,000 tons. It’s unlikely the majority of this volume is caught using pole-and-line, even if the Indonesian ministry has “no clear data," and that number could be too rosy.

The regional management body’s 2010 Tuna Fishery Yearbook recorded only 52,561 tons of skipjack tuna were caught using pole-and-line out of the country’s total skipjack catch of 257,153 tons. Overall, Indonesia caught 60,415 tons of skipjack, yellowfin and bigeye tuna using pole-and-line in 2010, according to the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission.

To compare to another major pole-and-line fishery, fishermen in the Maldives who operate in the Indian Ocean, are expected to catch about 60,000 to 80,000 tons of tuna each year using the traditional method. The Maldivians have about 1000 pole-and-line vessels, ranging in size from 6 to 30 meters, according to a report prepared for the Forum Fisheries Agency in 2011. This comes down to an average of 80 M/T yearly per pole-and-line boat.

Robert Gillett, author of the report and a consultant in marine resource assessment, management and development, indicated there were about 132 pole-and-line vessels, greater than 30 GRT, operating in northeast Indonesia in 2005. The country also has about 100 smaller boats, ranging in size from 9 to 13 meters, fishing out of Sulawesi.

If these boats would catch an average 100 M/T each annually they would only land combined 33,200 M/T.

Gillett found the estimates of Indonesia’s total pole-and-line tuna catch varied widely – from 60,000 to 240,000 tons – and due to the very large range, “a figure of 100,000 tons was semi-arbitrarily chosen.”

Padjung estimates 20% of Pacific Ocean tuna lives in Indonesian waters and he sees this as an opportunity for Indonesia to “become one of the biggest pole-and-line producing countries in the world.”
Still, there is a lot of work to be done if Indonesia is to seize this position. In 2011, for instance, Alliance Select –a canned tuna manufacturer in the Philippines - announced its Indonesian subsidiary, PT International Alliance Food, would increase its exports of pole-and-line sourced tuna to 50% in 2012. Since its factory in North Sulawesi has a daily capacity of 200 M/T of tuna products, this translates to a yearly output of 50,000 M/T (factoring in the 250 operating days). The company therefore aims to produce 25,000 tons of pole-and-line sourced tuna this year.

Padjung’s lofty expectations of pole-and-line tuna catches could also further be stunted by the reality of scarce resources in the region. The Philippines, situated just north of Indonesia, has seen increased rivalry and competition among its fishermen over the lack of fishing grounds in the past year.

Besides Indonesia and the Maldives, the other major pole-and-line producer is Japan, with an estimated catch of about 125,000 tons of skipjack and yellowfin annually. Each year, the world produces about 400,000 tons of pole and line catch in total, some of which is for domestic consumption. Currently, there are between 100,000 and 150,000 tons of pole-and-line caught skipjack and yellowfin on the international market, according to the Gillett report. With the majority of this exported pole-and-line fish coming from Maldives, Indonesia will first need to expand its pole-and-line fleet and fishermen substantially before it can make any real impact.