One of the most productive and most important fishing grounds in Indonesia, Fishery Management Area (WPP) 718 is facing a serious threat from illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. However, fishers and officials in WPP 718 have embraced a cutting-edge new electronic logbook system that greatly simplifies the process of registering vessels and reporting catch, thereby making surveillance and enforcement easier and significantly more effective.

In 2018, WPP 718 was recorded as the area with the highest fishing vessel permit in Indonesia with 1,340 permits. Last year, ship permit data from the provincial governments of Papua, Maluku Province and the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (MMAF) indicated that more than 3,000 vessels measuring more than 10 Gross Tonnage (GT) were operating in WPP 718; this figure does not including fishing vessels measuring less than 5 GT, which are thought to be in the thousands. Beyond this enormous fleet of registered vessels, there are still many unregistered fishing operations going on in WPP 718, especially among vessels under 10 GT. With many ships criss-crossing a huge area and docking at multiple ports, tracking their activities – and their legality – poses a major challenge.

In response, the Minister of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries announced the electronic fisheries log book system (Indonesian Fisheries Electronic Log Book, LBPI) during the Our Ocean Conference, held in Bali in October 2018. This system can replace the manual (i.e., paper-based) fisheries log book and, according to the Director General of Capture Fisheries at that time, became the first electronic fisheries logbook system in Southeast Asia.

As a digital-based system, LBPI offers a number of advantages. First, the catch reporting process is easier and more efficient, because it is gadget-based; secondly, paperwork is no longer required in the data recording process; third, data reporting no longer requires the ship owner or captain to come to the port office; and fourth, inputting of reports can be done when the gadget is offline (a major plus for those working at sea, or in coastal areas where internet coverage can be unreliable).

LBPI Training in Merauke and the Aru Islands

From 27–28 August and on 9 December 2021, training related to the use of the LBPI system was held for small-scale fishermen in the Aru Islands and Merauke. The activity was carried out by Destructive Fishing Watch (DFW) Indonesia; as one of the implementing partners of the ATSEA-2 Project, DFW Indonesia supports the Programme’s goal to combat IUU fishing in the ATS, by helping to strengthen monitoring, control and surveillance throughout the region.

A total of 127 ships’ captains attended the training – 62 individuals in Aru and 65 in Merauke. Also present were 15 observers, representing the Regency Fisheries Service of Aru and Merauke, the Maluku Island Cluster IX Branch Office, elements of the Navy, and other representatives of law enforcement in both districts. In Merauke, the Merauke Fishing Port provided a venue for the event and helped the committee coordinate the fishing boat captains targeted as participants. In Dobo on the Aru Islands, the Dobo Fishing Port provided a base for activities, where fishermen and members of the Maluku Island Cluster IX Branch Office assembled.

The directorate of Fish Resource Management (PSDI) of KKP, through the Coordinator for Monitoring and Evaluation of SDI, Syahril Abdul Raup, played an important role in the success of the event, by providing an explanation to the committee regarding the LBPI system.

In Merauke, by the end of the activity 11 of the participants had already activated the e-logbook. Guided by online presenters from Jakarta, the 11 captains filled out the registration form available on the LBPI application page, then downloaded and installed the Application for free via the Android platform.

Challenges and lessons learned

In 2019, approximately a year after the LBPI e-logbook was launched, there were 6,000 vessels using the system (equivalent to 10% of the Indonesian fishing fleet known to be active at that time). The latest laws and regulations (Regulation of the Minister of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries of the Republic of Indonesia Number 33 of 2021 concerning Fishing Logbooks, Monitoring onboard Fishing Vessels and Fish Transporting Vessels, Inspection, Testing and Marking of Fishing Vessels, and Management of Fishing Vessel Manning) stipulates that all fishing vessels are obliged to report their catch (article 4). With this provision, the challenge of overcoming unregulated fishing increases with the growing population of vessels that are obliged to report their catch.

Thus, taking the initiative through training activities on the use and activation of LBPI in the community is becoming increasingly necessary. Based on the observations of the DFW Indonesia team during their activities in Merauke and the Aru Islands, since last March 2021, there are at least three things that must be improved to support the increased use of LBPI: first, the process of legalising fishing vessels; second, the level of digital literacy of fishermen; and third, communication technology infrastructure, especially in remote areas.

(by Subhan Usman – Program Manager at DFW Indonesia)