It was just a few minutes before 8am in Denpasar, Bali, but all participants had already gathered at the Indonesian learning hub, ready to begin their Essential-Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries Management (E-EAFM) training. Bali was not the only learning hub to host such training; various other participants had gathered in two other destinations, in Dili, Timor-Leste and Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea (PNG).

Two participants working together to develop EAFM plan presentation.

In collaboration with Melbourne-based Fishwell Consulting and Bali-based Starling Resources, the GEF/UNDP/PEMSEA ATSEA-2 Programme held the E-EAFM training to introduce and popularise EAFM approaches to fisheries managers in the Arafura and Timor Seas (ATS) region. To tackle unsustainable fishing, which is one of five transboundary issues in the ATS region, EAFM is used to promote broader consideration of the links between components in an ecosystem and fisheries, facilitate trade-offs between different stakeholders’ priorities, and enable stakeholder participation through better communication and trust.

Not a Standalone Activity

The training forms part of the wider EAFM planning process. Through the training and five focus group discussions, ATSEA-2 aims to develop a comprehensive regional EAFM plan for red snapper fisheries in the ATS region, making them as participatory as possible by involving relevant key stakeholders.

During the training, participants learned about the what and why of EAFM, the seven principles of EAFM, and went over the EAFM cycle. At the heart of EAFM is a holistic and practical approach to implement sustainable development and sustainably maximise the ecosystem benefits of a fishery system. Like sustainable development, EAFM can find a balance between human and ecological well-being through good governance.

Thanks to the participatory nature of the training, participants were able to investigate how to define and scope the fisheries management unit, identify and prioritise issues and goals, and explored practical ways to develop the EAFM plan. By the end of the training, there were four EAFM plans for the Timor Sea, Aru Islands, Viqueque and South Fly District which, following refinement, could be used as references for managing fisheries in those locations. 

Read also: Data Key To Sustaining Red Snapper Fishery in Timor Leste

Fighting the Pandemic

The hybrid training was the first of its kind conducted under ATSEA-2. As a hybrid, the training was managed using online and offline mechanisms simultaneously in three countries, where all learning hubs were connected via the Zoom platform. As explained by Dr. Ian Knuckey from Fishwell Consulting, “we have had to modify our stakeholder engagement considerably due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The hybrid approach of online and small country hubs is trying to achieve this.”

Despite the lingering pandemic, ATSEA-2 endeavoured to ensure the training could be carried out as safely as possible. In all learning hubs, the training was conducted following strict health protocols. All participants were required to wear masks and maintain social distancing, while kealth kits like masks and hand sanitisers were also provided by the training committee. In Indonesia, an extra effort was taken by requiring all participants to take swab antigen tests before and after the training, to ensure that all participants remained safe and healthy throughout the training.

Read also: Analysing the Potential Economic Impacts of IUU Fishing in Indonesia

A Collaborative Effort

Dr. Mohammad Mukhlis Kamal, an accredited E-EAFM trainer who has run scores of international EAFM training workshops and been a member of EAFM development in Indonesia since 2014, led the training in Bali and was assisted by Mr. Aris Budiarto. Meanwhile, Mr. Mario Cabral acted as co-facilitator for Timor-Leste and Mr. Kenneth Yhuanje did the same for Papua New Guinea.

Participants gave positive feedback in terms of how the training was run. Most participants said they enjoyed the training, learned a lot, and would bring this new knowledge back home. Dr. Ralph Mana from the University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG) said: “Now I can introduce EAFM to my students and peers in UPNG.”

After five intense days, a total of 10 participants from Indonesia, eight from Timor-Leste and eight from Papua New Guinea completed the training. In Timor-Leste, Mr. Celestino da Cunha Baretto, National Director of Marine Spatial Planning, Capture and Aquatic Resources Management from Timor-Leste Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, symbolically concluded the training by handing over certificates to the participants.

Finally, Dr. Handoko Adi Susanto from ATSEA-2 RPMU applauded the training participants for their high enthusiasm and active engagement, and the training committee for facilitating the training seamlessly. “It was a well-orchestrated effort that could not have been done without sufficient IT infrastructure and, most importantly, excellent teamwork,” he said.

(Casandra Tania)