North Sumatra Fishermen See Mangroves in Their Future


Fishermen in North Sumatra’s Langkat district have begun replanting mangroves on 1,200 hectares of coastal land previously cleared for oil palm plantations. Activists from the Indonesian Traditional Fishermen’s Association (KNTI) and the Fisheries Justice Coalition (Kiara) said at a press conference in Jakarta on Sunday that they hoped to restore the mangrove ecosystem in Pangkalan Berandan subdistrict and possibly set aside 300 hectares as a conservation area. Tajuruddin Hasibuan, head of the KNTI’s Sumatra chapter, said fishermen in seven villages in the area were involved in the initiative. “When you consider how important the mangrove ecosystem is to the traditional fishermen, you need to consistently fight against the expansion of oil palm plantations in the area,” he said. “We realize that what we’re doing is just the start, and that there are other areas where plantations are expanding and mangrove swamps are deteriorating.” He said that in the village of Lubuk Kertang alone, around 2,000 hectares of mangrove swamp have been cleared for plantations since the 1990s. During that period, Tajuruddin said, the fishermen’s catches had declined significantly. Selamet Daryoni, the advocacy and education manager at Kiara, urged wide public support for the fishermen’s initiative to protect both their environment and their livelihoods. “Saving Indonesia’s mangroves is a concrete solution toward improving fishermen’s welfare and ensuring food security,” he said. “If they can increase their catch, then that will help boost protein intake among the local community.” Mida Saragih, Kiara’s awareness manager, hailed the campaign as more meaningful than international discussions on climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts, which she said were either tied up over funding disagreements or focused on complex and esoteric concepts such as carbon trading that did not address urgent problems. “The government should do more to emphasize local solutions and initiatives during these international negotiations,” she said. “It also needs to underline the urgency of addressing coastal degradation, not just in the Langkat district but all across the country.” Activists previously calculated that mitigation and adaptation efforts for the maritime sector alone will require up to 5 percent of the state budget, but that the entire budget for the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry is just 0.3 percent of the state budget. The issue of funding for climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts for developing and at-risk countries is expected to be high on the agenda at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change conference in Doha in November. Activists in Indonesia have criticized the lack of details on specific allocations or on progress in emissions-reduction initiatives already being carried out, and remain largely skeptical of any breakthrough being made in Doha.