Indonesia Sustainable Development News Digest

Starling Resource produces a bi-weekly Indonesia Sustainable Development News Digest email for circulation to a broader cohort of practitioners, funders, and experts. The purpose of the digest is to present readers with a brief, easily digestible summary of significant, recent news items, reports, and papers relevant to conservation, sustainable development, and the environment in Indonesia, compiled from domestic Indonesian and international media sources. The digest is produced once every two weeks throughout the year. If you are interested in receiving the digest, please let us know by email at or subscribe here

News Digest
2017 – 3: 30 January 2017

Marine & Fisheries

Boom in Fish Aggregating Devices creates headaches for Indonesia’s war on overfishing
—Mike Cronin Mongabay 2017-02-09
“The use of FADs by small-scale fishers is important for day-to-day livelihoods,” according to Adyita Utama Surono, Executive Director of Indonesian Communities and Fisheries Foundation (MDPI).  However, the devices are presently unregulated and there is no way of estimating their total number or locations.  The Minister of Marine Affairs and Fisheries Susi Pudjiastuti created controversy last month by saying that FADs “in whatever name or form must be eradicated”.  Yellowfin and skipjack tuna are the most abundant fish recorded around FADs, accounting for about 90% of the total catch, according to Andrew Harvey, Special Advisor for the International Pole and Line Foundation.  “Anchored FADs, in particular, have yielded benefits,” Harvey said.  Peter Mous, Director of the Nature Conservancy’s Indonesia Fisheries Conservation Program, said that the number of FADs is currently too high risking overexploitation “if appropriate management is not in place.”

China Changing from Largest Seafood Exporter to Largest Seafood Importer
—Amy Zhong [translator], Shuichan News (Marine Products News) in 2017-02-10
China is changing from the world’s largest seafood exporter to the largest global importer with full government support, which has significant implications for the country’s fisheries and tariff policies.  The new policy is a response to declines in China’s marine resources due to environmental pollution, overfishing, and changes in the transportation and transshipment of seafood products.  The country’s total volume of marine resources is likely to contract by about 10 million tonnes in 2020, 3.09 million tonnes lower than the volume of marine resources in 2015.  [sic]

How antibiotic-tainted seafood from China ends up on your table
—Jason Gale, Lydia Multany and Monte Reel, Bloomberg Businessweek 2016-12-15
Overuse of antibiotics for livestock and farmed seafood is contributing to the rise of antibiotic-resistant infections in the US and worldwide.  As much as 90% of the antibiotics administered to pigs in China pass through pigpen wastes into aquaculture ponds, adding to the high doses of antibiotics administered to farmed seafood. Of particularly concern are drugs like colistin, a human antibiotic “of last resort” banned for use with animals in the US. FDA monitoring of imported farmed seafood from China has been in place since 2006, but antibiotic-contaminated seafood continues to turn up at US ports, in restaurants and grocery stores due to shadowy seafood companies capable of moving dirty seafood around the world in the same way criminal organizations launder dirty money.

Massive Smear Article in Businessweek Aims to Push Shrimp Imports Under USDA Inspection
—John Sackton, [News Analysis] 2016-12-16
John Sackton describes a Businessweek article (cited above) as a “massive smear”.  Sackton claimed that “the goal of the reporter and backers of the article is to create pressure to put shrimp inspections under the auspices of the USDA.” The response said the Businessweek article “called into question most of Asian aquaculture production, as its claims apply not just to shrimp but to any pond, cage-raised or estuary-cultivated seafood.”

Global ocean oxygen content declined 2% between 1960 and 2010
—Sunke Schmidtko et al, Nature 2017-02-15
A recent paper found that global oceanic oxygen declined by more than 2% since 1960, with large variations in different ocean basins and at different depths.  Because of uneven distribution, oceanic oxygen losses could have far reaching effects.  “For fisheries and coastal economies, this process may have detrimental consequences,” one of the study co-authors stated. |

Great Barrier Reef suffered worst coral die-off on record in 2016
—Shreya Dasgupta Mongabay 2016-11-28
Scientists have confirmed that Australia’s Great Barrier Reef (GBR) has suffered its worst ever coral bleaching event on record due to higher-than-normal temperatures in 2015-2016.  In the northern part of the GBR about 67% of the shallow-water corals died over the past 8-9 months, according to researchers from the Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies.  “Most of the losses in 2016 occurred in the northern, most-pristine part of the GBR,” Professor Terry Hughes, Director of ARC said.

Serious damage to Southeast Sulawesi marine ecosystem reported
—Dyna Rochmyaningsih, Mongabay 2017-01-08
The highly biodiverse reef ecosystem of Southeast Sulawesi Province has been damaged by expansion of the nickel mining industry and its associated infrastructure as well as by an outbreak of the coral eating crown-of-thorns seastar.  A joint expedition by WWF-Indonesia, Reef Check Foundation, Southeast Sulawesi’s Agency for Fisheries and Marine Affairs; and Halu Uleo University, observed high levels of sedimentation and lower levels of hard coral cover near nickel mining areas.

Forestry & Land Use

Ministry wins another case against company responsible for burning forests
—Hans Nicholas Jong, The Jakarta Post 2017-02-09
Indonesia’s Ministry of the Environment and Forestry (MoEF) has won another case against a palm oil company using fire to clear land in South Sumatra.  The South Jakarta District Court ordered PT Waringin Agro Jaya (WAJ) to pay Rp 466.5 billion (US$ 35 million), of which Rp 173.5 billion was compensation for burning 1,626 ha in its land concession and Rp 293 billion to cover the cost of restoring the burned land.  Last November, the Supreme Court awarded the highest penalty for environmental destruction in Indonesian history, cementing MoEF’s recent string of success in prosecuting such cases.

Greenpeace slams APRIL over loophole in fire prevention policy
—Alice Cuddy, Mongabay 2017-02-10
According to an investigation by the Dutch audit firm PMG, short-term suppliers used by Asia Pacific Resources International Holdings Ltd. (APRIL) are not required to report details of fires on concessions, or related government sanctions, contrary to the group’s commitment to transparency about forest fires on all current and future wood suppliers.  One of APRIL’s short-term suppliers, PT ITCI Hutanti, was one of 23 companies punished by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry for forest fires in 2015. Another supplier, PT Korintiga Hutani, part of the Korean-Indonesian Korindo Group, was the focus of a report on land burning in Papua Province last year.  An APRIL spokesman said the company was taking steps to revise supply contracts to address the issue.

President Joko Widodo greenlights land reform plans
—Fedina S. Sundaryani The Jakarta Post 2017-02-07  [Printed edition only]
Indonesian President Joko Widodo has instructed his cabinet to develop detailed plans to implement a 57-year old land reform program to redistribute land and close the economic gap for marginalized rural farmers and laborers.  The government hopes to prepare 12.7 million ha of idle land for redistribution.  “We must conduct land reform because … a large concentration of land is owned by groups of people or corporations … [that] only pay a quarter of the tax they are supposed to submit to the state,” the President said. [summary only]

Papua is the latest victim of unsustainable forest management after rampant deforestation in Sumatra and Kalimantan
—Jakarta Globe 2017-02-01
Bustar Maitar, Director of Mighty Earth for Southeast Asia, said that massive forest clearing was responsible for critical watershed conditions, major declines in endemic wildlife and habitat degradation, with Papua [Province] the latest victim after rampant deforestation in Sumatra and Kalimantan. Bustar said the national mandatory timber certification system, SVLK, has not been effectively enforced due to poor ethics by industry players and poor governance by authorities.  Indonesian industry players should avoid the mindset that commodity certifications were part of international pressure to make the country’s products uncompetitive in the global market, the activist said.

Economic Development and Forest Cover:  Evidence from Satellite Data
— Jesús Crespo Cuaresma et al, Nature Sci. Rep., 2017-01-16
Per capita income is the most robust determinant of deforestation differences across countries, according to satellite data monitoring along borders.  The results lend support to the hypothetical environmental Kuznets curve for deforestation, showing that the positive correlation between economic development and deforestation levels out and begins to reverse when per capita income of roughly US$5,500 adjusted for purchasing power parity (PPP).

Carbon finance is not a one-size-fits-all solution to deforestation
—Mike Gaworecki Mongabay 2017-01-23
A study published in the journal Environmental Research Letters this month found that while carbon finance can be effective in the right circumstances, it is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Potential revenue from carbon storage or emissions reductions are significant in some landscapes, such as the peat forests of Kalimantan, Indonesia, but less so in other areas, like the low-carbon forests of Zanzibar and the interior of Tanzania.  “…conserving environments like that peat forest could earn US$3.5 billion over the course of 30 years,” the report’s lead author said, but “a dry forest in Zanzibar would net only about US$38 million over the same time frame.”

Will there be enough sustainable palm oil for the entire market?
—Tara Maclsaac Mongabay 2017-02-0
A report by the London-based non-profit CDP (formerly Carbon Disclosure Project) found that only one in five surveyed companies in the agricultural production sector assess risks associated with deforestation beyond a six-year horizon across commodities, and fewer than half (42%) had evaluated the impact of the availability or quality of key forest-risk commodities over the next five or more years.  While a high percentage (72%) of reporting companies say they are confident they will be able to source commodities sustainably and securely in the future, it is not clear that sufficient supplies of sustainable commodities will be available to meet all of these targets.

Climate Change & Pollution

100,000 people may have died, but there is still no justice over Indonesia air pollution
—Elodie Aba and Babbie Sta. Maria, The Guardian 2017-02-04
Haze from fires in Indonesia generated about 600 million tonnes of greenhouse gases (GHG) in 2015, equivalent to Germany’s average annual GHG output.  The smoke contains dangerous chemicals, including carbon monoxide, ammonia and cyanide.  Researchers at Harvard and Columbia universities say the haze may have caused more than 100,000 premature deaths in 2015, including 91,000 in Indonesia, 6,500 in Malaysia and 2,200 in Singapore.  Indonesia has taken steps to penalize some companies found guilty of contributing to forest fires in 2015, but there is a need for additional measures to remove barriers to legal accountability and enhance the capacity of courts to handle environmental cases.

Oceans of Plastic:  Fixing Indonesia’s Marine Debris Pollution Laws
—Muhammad Taufan, The Diplomat 2017-01-26
Research by Jenna Jamback in 2015 found 3.2 million tons of plastic waste polluting Indonesian waters in 2010, making Indonesia the biggest source of plastic marine waste in Southeast Asia and second biggest in the world after China.  Cities are major sources of plastic pollution, with Jakarta accounting for some 6,000 tons of plastic litter per day.
Indonesia lacks legislation and regulations with concrete policies or measures to control plastic pollution and the production and use of materials that can cause marine plastic litter.

Coal-fueled Pacitan power plant in East Java has damaged marine resources
—Nuswantoro, Mongabay 2017-02-01
The 630-MW Pacitan coal-fired power plant began construction in 2007 and came online in October 2013.  Since then, local fishermen say their catch has fallen dramatically, forcing them to fish farther offshore, and compensation demanded by the fishermen has not materialized.  Fuel for the power plant is transported by sea-going barges which pass through turtle breeding areas and near nesting sites for green, hawksbill and olive ridley sea turtles, which, local conservationists say has reduced the number of hatchlings.  Plans to develop coastal tourism in nearby Sumberejo have been frustrated, and hopes that the plant would recruit large numbers of local workers proved fruitless. | |

What happened after the Montara oil spill? 
—Tim Henry, Mongabay 2017-02-14
Eight years after the devastating 2009 Montara oil spill in the Timor Sea, a body of water shared by Australia and Timor, PTTEP Australasia, the Thai-owned Australian oil responsible for the spill, was forced to pay the equivalent of US$530,000, but no compensation or penalty was ever paid to Indonesia.  After years of fruitless negotiations, some 5,000 Indonesian seaweed farmers are seeking compensation for loss of livelihoods due to faltering seaweed production.  Indonesian officials accuse the company of falsely claiming that the oil never reached the Indonesian coast and that the spill did not cause any environmental harm in Indonesia.

Conservation & Protected Areas

There are now just 30 vaquita left in the wild
—Junaidi Hanafiah Mongabay 2017-02-02
There are now just 30 vaquita (Phocoena sinus) left in the Upper Gulf of Baja California, the only known range for this critically endangered small porpoise.  The population declined by 39% between 2011 and 2016 with entanglement in gillnets the leading cause of death for the vaquita, a high value fish whose swim bladders are in high demand in China.  The governments of Mexico and the United States have committed to a number of collaborative conservation measures, but a team of researchers said the current conservation plan is likely to fall short because it “neglects local livelihoods, the traditions and heritage of the community, the ecological integrity of the area and increases dependence on fishing subsidies.


Jakarta and Semarang are poised on the brink of ecological disasters
—Hans Nicholas Jong The Jakarta Post 2017-02-02
Researchers at the Indonesian Institute of Science (LIPI) have concluded that the cities of Jakarta and Semarang lack resilience to withstand ecological disaster due to the impacts of reclamation projects.  Semarang, built in a coastal swamp area, suffers from subsidence, with tidal floods reaching as far as 5 km from the coast line and large sections of the city below sea level. Jakarta is threatened by the Jakarta Bay reclamation project, which will develop 17 man-made islands, attracting another 600,000 people to the area.  “Right now, North Jakarta is already subsiding 10 cm per month,” the researcher said. “This will surely continue, and we will sink underwater in the future.”

Philippines will shut half of its mines in an environmental clapdown
—Enrico Dela Cruz and Manolo Serapio Jr., Reuters 2017-02-02
The Philippines ordered the closure of 23 mines, mainly nickel mines, accounting for about half of output in the world’s biggest nickel ore supplier, and suspended operations at five other mines, including the country’s biggest gold mine, operated by Australia’s Oceanagold Corp., sending nickel prices higher in global markets. Regina Lopez, Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, refused to reconsider the decision to shut down the mines. “Everytime you put up an open pit and a tailing pond, you’re putting our country at Risk, Lopez said.  Philippine President Duterte, supported the latest action.

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