December 17, 2019


Indonesia to revive idle shrimp farms in sustainability push


Indonesia plans to restore more than 300,000 hectares of idle shrimp ponds to boost its fisheries and reduce deforestation of the country's mangrove ecosystems, according to a top official, Mongabay reported last week.


Worsening the situation, more than 600,000 hectares of land, most of it in coastal regions rich in mangroves, has been cleared for shrimp farms, according to 2018 government data. "We must revitalise this area that's abandoned or poorly managed… over the next five years," Alan Koropitan, a deputy in the office of the President's Chief of Staff.


He said rebuilding shrimp farms on these idle ponds could give a necessary boost to the Indonesian fisheries sector. While Indonesia is a top global exporter of frozen seawater shrimps, the country lags behind its neighbours in exports of freshwater shrimps and fresh, salted or smoked shrimps. Some of its top seafood exports include Asian tiger shrimp (Penaeus monodon) and whiteleg shrimp (Litopenaeus vannamei).


In Indonesia, shrimp farming is a major driver of the deforestation of mangroves, a critical habitat for coastal marine life. Shrimp farming has also drawn criticism for degrading the quality of freshwater available for communities living nearby the ponds.


Koropitan said President Joko Widodo had ordered the fisheries ministry to map out the idle shrimp farms across the country that would be feasible for revival.


Fisheries experts have welcomed the government's intention of boosting the aquaculture sector, but say the way to do it is through intensification rather than increasing the number of such ponds.


Susan Herawati, general secretary of the People's Coalition for Fisheries Justice, an NGO, cited the revitalisation of Bumi Dipasena, one of Indonesia's main sites for shrimp fisheries, spanning 17,000 hectares in Sumatra's Lampung province.


"Bumi Dipasena is the largest shrimp farm in Asia, maybe even in the world," Herawati  said. "The fisheries ministry must be able to intensify the production of this site to fulfil demand."


She called for improving road infrastructure and ensuring access to reliable electricity and clean water, both to boost logistics for the shrimp producers and to help the thousands of families living in the area.


Earlier this month, Indonesia's fisheries minister, Edhy Prabowo promised to work with other government institutions to revive Bumi Dipasena. One of the main challenges is the limited capacity of the existing shrimp ponds and infrastructure to boost yields, the minister said.


In addition, according to experts, reviving Bumi Dipasena would require introducing community-based management and phasing out top-down corporate control of the farms.


Operational control of the shrimp farms there previously fell under Jakarta-listed aquaculture company PT Central Proteina Prima, working under a partnership scheme with small-scale farmers. At its peak in the 1990s, Bumi Dipasena was producing 200 tonnes of shrimp a day on average, and generating an estimated US$3 million a year in export revenue. Sadly the company covertly cut half of the bank loans meant for the farmers, leading to the decline of the entire operation.


Today some shrimp farmers continue to work at Bumi Dipasena, but profits are slim.


"We'll keep on fighting, and we urge the government to play its role," said Nafian Faiz, one of the farmers.

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