My internship with Anova Seafood Asia was part of their sustainability program: Fishing & Living. Anova Seafood BV, based in the Netherlands but with branches and offices in the US, Africa, Vietnam and Indonesia, is an importer of fresh and frozen seafood to the US and the EU.
The company is deeply involved in meeting the demand for sustainable seafood by the world market. They support suppliers of fish to convert to more sustainable methods and practices. The Yellowfin tuna fishery in Indonesia aims for Marine Stewardship Council certification as a way to show their sustainable approach.
Apart from suitable management structures, one of the weak factors in the Indonesian tuna fisheries is an immense gap in available data. This causes a lack of knowledge on status of the stock, the catches, the ecosystems and the effects that a particular fishery has on that ecosystem. My internship was meant to assist in addressing this data deficiency problem.
We developed a port sampling system based on requirements set out by the Regional Fisheries Management Organizations, the Indonesian government and the FAO. For each tuna fishing vessel that lands its fish in a particular port we needed to record the total catch per species, the fishing area, the number of days at sea among other data. With so many small vessels it is impossible to count and measure all fish. A subsampling method was developed to get data on the targeted tunas and the amount and composition of the by-catch species.
I worked mainly on one port sampling program in East Lombok, work which is now being continued by a team of trained enumerators. This program and the methods we developed will now be used as an example for other ports. To make the duplication of the Lombok example easy, we made a package that includes a training program, a sampling protocol and functional data collection sheets. In the end the local government needs to carry out the regular monitoring, so we invested a lot of effort in developing good relations with relevant government agencies. They are involved in improving the methods developed and spreading the system throughout the tuna fisheries in the country.
Indonesians are extremely enthusiastic, energetic and interested....but still there are many problems: sustainable fisheries and the promise of fish for future generations is often not enough motivation to change their ways of fishing that are sometimes hundreds of years old. So, how to convince fishermen that a juvenile will grow into a more profitable larger fish by leaving him in the ocean? How to find time to educate fishermen who are out at sea for a 10-15 day trip, come back and refuel before going out on their next trip? How to convince fishermen and the buyers of fish products that sustainability is inevitably for their own good in an open access system? Figure 4: Port Sampling of large Yellowfin tuna. The individual fork length and weight of all large Yellowfin tuna was measured.
To walk in your bare feet in a landing area, among hundreds of tuna, many more than 1.5 meters in length; to teach enthusiastic enumerators how to use calipers and how to identify the various species and then to explain to the fishermen that they are helping to increase the global knowledge on one of the worlds’ most valuable fish (all in broken Bahasa!!!) is an experience which I will never forget. Indonesia’s fishery is developing, it is dynamic, fast paced and internationally important due to its location in the Coral Triangle. You feel that as a researcher you can make a difference, you can be creative, use your ideas and imagination and do all this while working with the friendliest most cheerful people I have ever met!
Copy right: all photos by Momo Kochen.
Main figure on top: Training enumerators in port sampling skills. Simulation of boat unloading, requiring skills on identification of species, subsampling method and data recording