Starting last year (2010), news about ‘fisherfolks are in paceklik’ has been frequently heard almost in the Indonesian media in bi-weekly or monthly basis.
Paceklik came from the old Javanese agricultural term describing social hardship due to crop failure. Now, in modern Bahasa it refers to the situation of ‘hunger’, yet more of an en route to ‘famine’, when communities losing their capability to produce or access to food.
The unending extreme weather since early 2010 has been affecting fishing operations in 20 provinces across the western and eastern archipelago of Indonesia.
The year has been marked with frequent storms, with strong winds generating high swells and intense rainfall, has been restricting many Indonesian fishing households to go out to the sea, particularly the majority whom are traditional catch fisheries.
Nearly throughout 2010 the affect of La Niña in the western part of Pacific Ocean region has prompted shorter wet-dry season cycle in Indonesia. It was estimated that La Niña would likely to make the ongoing wet season up to March 2011 more difficult to fishing households according to The Indonesian Agency for Climatology, Meteorology, and Geophysics.
As end of this January 2011, the number of fisherfolk households who has been unable to go out to the sea is almost reaching half million, according to the report gathered by the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Affairs (KKP).
This was under reported according to Riza Damanik, secretary General for The People’s Coallition for Fisheries Justice (KIARA) foundation. KIARA data showed that the number has reached more than half a million household, equivalent of around two million people in food insecurity.
Since early 2010, almost every month I personally read news of fishers died of capsizing or swept away by extreme ocean conditions, where ‘no other choice to feed their families’ or ‘economic pressure’ often being the motive.
The distress has been ongoing for about a year, yet the Indonesian Government has not yet ready for a national pan of action to cope with such a prolonged ‘fishing drought’.
This January (2011), the central government of Indonesia initiate a short-tem remedial action rice ration to affected fishermen and their families.
For this matter, Social Affairs Minister Salim Segaf Al Jufri proudly told reporters that his ministry had approximately Rp 540 billion ($59.4 million) in de-concentration funds distributed to regional governments. The fund use means sacrificing de-concentration fund of the central government’s money that has been handed to provincial administrations for various development programs.
The funds were expected to allocated 13.000 tons of rice required to help fishing households with income generation that has been severely disrupted. Yet, it was only expected to last for approximately two-weeks supply of 400 grams of rice per day per affected household.
Concurrently, Indonesia is still reliant to imported rice as last year’s rice production can only support around half of the required minimum national rice stock level. In 2010 themselves, paddy production could only achieve a quarter of the average increase of national rice production due to serious weather anomalies affecting agriculture, according to the National Logistics Agency (Bulog).
Almost every year fisherfolk’s paceklik occurred, 2010 (and ongoing to 2011) is expected to be the worst. Yet, national agenda for food and fisheries security had been somehow always miss anticipate or neglect the repeating packelklik events that tend to get worsen each time.
The coastal has been undeniably a ‘backyard dump’, particularly in the major islands such as Java, Kalimantan, and parts of Sulawesi and Sumatra; due to where past terrestrial-oriented development policies that has overlooked the fishing-economic stability and ecosystem sustainability of the particular region.
This January, several grass root non-governmental organizations representing national fisherfolk union and human-environmental rights joining with KIARA has urged the Indonesian government to declare the situation as a ‘national disaster’.
Looking at the number of victims, loss of household materials, damage of fishing infrastructures and facilities, the NGOs accede to the fact that that central government had under estimated the urgency and priority by stating a ’social disaster’ which the term affects the bureaucratic urgency of coordination and the fund allocation for emergency response.
There is an urgent need for Indonesia to enhance the to cope with and adapt to the climate change impact to fisheries. Climate change affects fisheries economy in both ways where, first, current situation clearly us how it has disrupted fishers’ situation.
According to KIARA, in last year, traditional fishers sailed less frequent than usual, from 240-300 to 160 – 180 trips days per year; 68 fishermen died or lost at sea in the period of January to September 2010; average daily income reduced 50-70% (shockingly A$ 0 – 7); material loss in the artisanal sector estimated between A$6-7 billion of 2,752,490 fishers.
Secondly, for Indonesia, there is another big question of how climate change would affect directly to the fisheries distribution and productivity of various regions in Indonesia, through the atmospheric warning and the associated hydrological and oceanographic process. This relates to many empirical studies and theories that oceanic condition changes such as ocean temperature are affecting environmental preference of marine organisms.
In 2010, a research published in the Global Change Biology by William Cheung and co-authors in 2010 projected that climate change might lead to a ‘large scale redistribution of maximum fisheries catch potential’ in the global ocean.
Using data of 1066 exploited marine species, from global fish landing data from 2000 – 2004, climate projection data from Global Fluid Dynamics Laboratory of the NOAA; analysis of their projection showed that fisheries productivity and distribution in the regions of EEZ countries that lies between +30 to -30 degrees latitudes (such as the tropics) may experience reduction in fish catch potential.
From 20 EEZ countries they analyzed, Indonesia has the largest projected decline by 2055 under high emission climate scenario. This means ocean warming may contribute to the oceanic dislocation of 45 economic marine species simulated for Indonesia. Warm ocean may trigger the species to go deeper, or further away from coastal, from their commonly known preferred environment.
Research such as by Cheung et al. stresses the importance predicting future food supply from the ocean and its impact to the associated livelihoods. Yet, in Indonesia, the detailed effect itself on climate change impacts on the biological and physical process of individual fisheries (different target species of fishing sector and attached communities) are still uncertain
The long-term disruption of fisheries production and distribution may further degrade to the socioeconomic wellbeing of Indonesian traditional fisherfolk with their currently vulnerable economy of around only A$ 1,100 of income per year in average.
Projecting the vulnerability of both the biophysics of marine system associated to the food security of fishing community is urgently needed to strengthen policy makers’ capacity to retrieve information and generate analysis to guide priority of investments and initiatives of climate change mitigation and adaptation.