Marine Tenure and Small-Scale Fisheries: Learning from the Indonesia Experience


Through its commitment to addressing extreme poverty, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is integrating a deeper understanding of the importance of small-scale fisheries and the role marine tenure plays in achieving food security, inclusive economic growth, biodiversity conservation, and other priority development objectives. Small-scale fishing communities are among the poorest and most vulnerable groups in developing countries, highly dependent on wild fish stocks for food and livelihood. These communities are largely landless, residing in coastal areas vulnerable to threats, especially those related to climate change. Small-scale fisheries employ more than 90 percent of the world’s capture fisheries workforce and receive few if any subsidies. With fish stocks declining globally due to open access and poor governance of both land and sea, small-scale fishers and their families continue to be marginalized to a life of extreme poverty.

In January of 2017, USAID‘s Tenure and Global Climate Change provided technical assistance on marine tenure and small-scale fisheries in support of the Indonesia Sustainable Ecosystems Advanced (USAID SEA) Project. The Indonesia field assessment, conducted from February 19 to March 3, 2017, contributed inputs to an overall strategy on marine tenure that will support the USAID SEA project’s goal to improve the management and sustainability of small-scale fisheries. Under existing Indonesia law, small-scale fisheries are defined as fishers operating out of boats less than 10 gross tons (GT) in size. Through a combination of desk review, meetings, and a workshop, the field assessment helped clarify the viability, from a legal and institutional perspective, of pursuing marine tenure options within USAID SEA Project areas and identified customary marine tenure communities as focal areas for project interventions. Presentations to the Indonesia Marine Funder’s Collaboration Meeting and the USAID SEA Project Partners Coordination Meeting emphasized the importance of focusing on small-scale fisheries and explicitly considering marine tenure in project design. A 1½-day workshop was conducted in Jakarta attended by government agencies, nongovernment organizations (NGOs), and USAID SEA Project staff and partners. During the workshop, presentations by Indonesian experts highlighted the current customary marine tenure systems and co-management arrangements, and a case study in the territorial use rights in fisheries (TURF)-Reserve model. Participants tested the assessment tool that measures the implementation status of the Voluntary Guidelines on Sustainable Small-scale Fisheries. Key findings and recommendations based on the workshop output and meetings with USAID SEA Project staff and partners include:

  • Mainstream small-scale fisheries as a sector.
  • Improve information and data collection and analysis at national and provincial scales for the small-scale fisheries sector.
  • Clarify policy and protocols for legal recognition of customary marine tenure claims.
  • Develop a cohesive national policy on sustainable small-scale fisheries.
  • Increase awareness of local stakeholders of existing legal and policy framework for marine tenure and small-scale fisheries.
  • Characterize the existing socio-ecological systems in terms of existing claims, resource use patterns, and institutional arrangements in customary marine tenure systems.
  • Strengthen capacity of customary marine tenure institutions combining traditional ecological knowledge and practices, science-based knowledge and management, and value chain and economic tools.
  • Develop adaptive co-management arrangements to support customary marine tenure system in the context of an ecosystem approach to fisheries management (EAFM).
  • Promote co-management of FMA 715 that spans multiple provinces with active participation of small-scale fishers.
  • Delineate small-scale fishing grounds, customary marine tenure claims, and ecological designed marine reserve networks as an important first step in provincial marine spatial planning (MSP).
  • Develop small-scale fisheries management plans based on MSP in provincial waters.
  • Integrate small-scale fisheries into the Fisheries Management Plan for Fisheries Management Area 715.
  • Mainstream small-scale fisheries into Provincial Mid-Term and Annual Development Plans.
  • Build capacity of provinces to undertake mandate for coastal and small-scale fisheries management.