Reform and investment in Indonesia fisheries

Award Period
Award Amount
Agency Name
Walton Family Foundation, Inc
Award Number
PI First Name
PI Last Name
Reniel Cabral
Area/s of Research
Marine Conservation, Policy and Education

Indonesia is the most dependent nation on marine ecosystems in the world, particularly for their provision of nutritious food (Selig et al. 2019). Sustainable fisheries are crucial to supporting the food security, nutritional needs, and livelihoods of millions of people in Indonesia. However, food and nutritional security is a growing concern due to the projected increase in future local demand for food by the country’s burgeoning population; persistence of quasi open-access in many of its fisheries, contributing to overfishing; and expected ecosystem impacts of anthropogenic climate change. This condition is not unique to Indonesia and is also experienced by other coastal fishing communities in the developing tropics, whose coastal fishing populations are among the poorest and most food insecure (e.g. Cabral and Geronimo 2018).

While recovering Indonesia’s overfished fisheries can provide huge economic and social benefits in the long-term (Costello et al. 2016), there are tradeoffs and costs associated with this process. Strategic investments are needed to kick-start fishery recovery, reduce the potential short-term societal cost of fishery recovery, and sustain management. Assessing the effect of institutional, logistics, and infrastructure investments on fisheries benefits will generate a more informed investment strategy in Indonesia.

II. Proposal Overview

Leveraging the Sustainable Fisheries Group’s long history of work in fisheries and conservation in the developing tropics and beyond, we propose to perform an analysis of the effect of various classes of interventions on Indonesian fisheries.

We will develop classes of institutional investments that address both the open-access nature of the fisheries and infrastructure investments that improve the price of fish or reduce the cost of fishing. Fisheries management reform that regulates fishing effort typically causes short-term profit losses due to a reduction in effort, but ultimately leads to long-term profit increases due to improvements in fish biomass. The short-term costs of reforming Indonesia’s fisheries management can often persist for years. However, local fishing communities do not have months or years to absorb these short-term costs of fishery recovery. Investments in the form of capacity-enhancing subsidies or improvements in fish quality (e.g., investments in new boats, ports, and cold storage) in a poorly managed fishery may improve the total catch and profit in the short-term (through increases in fishing effort, improvements in fishing efficiency, and/or improvements in fish quality and price) but will lead to a profit loss in the long-term by encouraging overfishing.

Different classes of interventions can have very different outcomes and timing of outcomes. This research aims to evaluate classes of domestic fisheries investments in Indonesia, forecast the anticipated outcomes of these investments, and identify their potential tradeoffs.