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
2017-4: 13 February 2017

Marine & Fisheries

Indonesia calls for global crackdown on illegal fishing
—Desy Nurhayati Jakarta Post 2017-02-25
Indonesia has called for the United Nations and the European Commission to push for stronger law enforcement at the international level against illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti said Friday during the World Ocean Summit in Bali that IUU fishing was one of the biggest threats to the world’s fish stocks.

Legal Fishing Only Accounts for 30-40 Percent: Minister Susi
—Tempo 2017-02-23
Maritime and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti hopes that illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUUF) could be turned into legal, reported and regulated fishing."There are still many unreported [fishing]. In Indonesia, reported fishing only accounts to 30%-40%," Susi said on the sidelines of the World Ocean Summit 2017 in Nusa Dua, Bali, on Thursday, February 23, 2017.  Minister Pudjiastuti also revealed that countries like Taiwan cannot be held accountable bilaterally in relation to illegal fishing because Indonesia, which adheres to the One China Policy, does not recognize Taiwan as an independent country.

Maritime Sector to contribute 25 percent to Indonesia economy within ten years
—Dion Bisara Jakarta Globe and [no-byline] Jakarta Post 2017-02-24
"In the next decade, economic activities on our oceans, like offshore [oil and gas drilling], tourism or fisheries could contribute up to 25% of our GDP, up from just 11% today," Vice President Jusuf Kalla and Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan said on Thursday (23/02) at the Economist World Ocean Summit in Bali. The fishery sector contributes about 8% of Indonesia's $930 billion gross domestic product last year and was one of the fastest growing sectors in the economy. The country's export target this year is $5 billion worth of fish and other sea catch, up 19% from $4.2 billion last year. The country also launched an initiative to map its sea floor to find resources and push for more exploration of offshore oil and gas. "We should not let our other [minerals] resources lie untouched on our sea bed,” added Kalla. |

Crackdown on Illegal Fishing to Have Long-Term Benefits: Study
—Dion Bisara Jakarta Globe 2017-02-24
Fishery reform and investment will lead to profits $3.7 billion higher by 2050 than if the government decides to do nothing, according to the preliminary results of a study by the Sustainable Fisheries Group at the University of California Santa Barbara and the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries. In the worst-case scenario, Indonesia ramps up investment without pursuing reform, which leads to a steep profit increase before an inevitable deterioration in the fish biomass. "This [study] shows that an environmental policy, even if it's a good one, will [in itself] only result in a [temporary] increase of [fish] population," Minister of Marine Affairs and Fisheries Susi Pudjiastuti said. A study of Indonesia's skip jack tuna population showed fewer illegal fishing and investment on small-scale local fleet have reduced skip jack fishing by 25%. Another assessment on blue swimmer crabs' population said the trawl ban and catch size limit of 100 mm carapace width can increase trap fishers' profit by 14% in 20 years.

Susi seeks direct line to Czech businesses
—Tama Salim Jakarta Post 2017-02-15
Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti has encouraged fisheries businesses and importers from the Czech Republic to explore the potential benefits of direct trade with Indonesia. Susi was in Prague on a two-day business mission on Feb. 8 to 10 to meet with local businesses and engage in talks with Czech Minister of Industry and Trade Jan Mládek.

An End to Overfishing Could Reap US$83 Billions in Additional Benefits for Fisheries
—World Bank release 2017-02-14
Fishing less, and better, could generate an additional $83 billion a year for the global fisheries sector, creating a much-needed revenue stream for developing countries and improving global food security, the World Bank said.  Reducing the global fishing effort would allow biological processes to reverse the long-term decline in fish stocks seen in much of the world. About 90% of marine fisheries monitored by the FAO are fully-fished or over-fished, up from about 75% in 2005.  Fish stocks are also under pressure from pollution, coastal development, and the impacts of climate change, according to the Sunken Billions Revisited, an update of a 2009 study.  |

Forestry & Land Use

Interview with Siti Nurbaya Bakar: Customary forests are not for sale
—Tempo 2017-02-23
At the end of last year, the Indonesian Ministry of the Environment and Forestry declared eight forests, covering 13,122.3 hectares and home to 5,700 families, as customary (adat) forests. The decision came five years after the Constitutional Court turned over the rights to community forests from the state to traditional communities. Minister of the Environment and Forestry Siti Nurbaya Bakar explains in an interview the penalty for selling customary forest land and why the government has only recently begun declaring the customary forest status.

COMMENTARY: Who will benefit from Jokowi's land reform?
—Adisti Sukma Sawitri Jakarta Post 2017-02-21
Roughly 4.5 million hectares of degraded forest and 4.5 million ha of uncertified plots, will be owned by citizens under the Land as the Objects for Agrarian Reform  (Tanah untuk Objek Reforma Agraria, or TORA) policy, while another 12.7 million ha will be managed by indigenous people. A set of land taxes are in the pipeline to prevent brokering and speculation, but if people are left untrained, they will eventually give up the land to avoid paying taxes. The new TORA reform policy should serve as momentum for a new paradigm that puts people and sustainability as its main principles, leaving behind exploitative, myopic forestry management in the past and streamlining the complexity of the land tenure system, acknowledging and protecting people’s rights and ending past conflicts while mitigating future ones. The agrarian reform should not become another charity program that helps people only in the short run but keeps them poor in the long run. Building a partnerships to empower farmers will be critical in the program.

Indonesia Forest Cover Maps to Remain Confidential: Court
—Hans Nicholas Jong, The Jakarta Post 2017-02-16
The State Administrative High Court (PTUN) ruled in favour of the Ministry of the Environment and Forestry, allowing the government to continue non-disclosure of forest cover maps, which are essential to provide greater transparency on forest governance.  Last September, Greenpeace filed a suit against the ministry for refusing to release cover maps in shapefile format, which the ministry has said it considers to be confidential documents. Shapefile formats enable users to overlay different maps, providing greater transparency about who controls land and what activities are taking place.  “The future of Indonesia’s forests is getting darker with this ruling,” Greenpeace Indonesia forest campaigner Ratri Kusomohartono said. “There are many changes within forest unknown to the public because the data and information are being deliberately held by the ministry.”

Indonesia ups efforts to gain EU recognition for palm oil
—Hans Nicholas Jong Jakarta Post 2017-02-23
The Indonesian government plans to develop a palm oil certification scheme, similar to the Indonesian Timber Legality Verification System (Sistem Verifikasi Legalitas Kayu, SVLK) implemented in 2013 which has gained recognition as the world’s only timber legality scheme acknowledged by the EU. The government has issued its own national sustainability standards for palm oil, called Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO). However, five years into its implementation it has failed to gain access to premium EU markets. The opportunity will be developed through the Working Group on Environment and Climate Change (WGECC), which was set up during a meeting in Brussels in November 2016.

Conversion of peatland concessions into conservation areas commences
—Hans Nicholas Jong Jakarta Post 2017-02-22
The Indonesian government has begun the process of converting land concessions and plantations in peatlands into conservation areas, targeting 2.5 million hectares of land.The plan is laid out in four ministerial regulations issued as a follow-up of the revision of a government regulation on peatland protection and the government’s peatland hydrological area (KHG) map. The map divides Indonesia’s peatland areas into 12.4 million ha of conservation areas and 12.2 million ha of production areas. Signed by Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar on Wednesday, the ministerial regulations prohibit concession owners from planting on areas designated as conservation areas.  Owners of already existing plantations converted from peatlands into concessions will be allowed to harvest their commodities only once, after which the concessions will be restored to their original ecosystem functions and used for conservation purposes.

What happens when the soy and palm oil boom ends?  Interview with Derek Byerlee
—Rhett A. Butler Mongabay 2017-02-21
Multiple factors enabled the boom in tropical oil crops over the past 30 years, including rising demand for protein meal, vegetable oil, and biodiesel fuel; the availability of cheap land in Brazil, global trade liberalization under the WTO, and massive substitution of palm and soy products for traditional products. Slowing growth of demand for vegetable oil and higher land acquisition costs, resulting from more secure land tenure, may slow future growth in tropical oil crops.  Future demand may be met through intensifying production resulting from steady genetic improvement and closing yield gaps. In the case of oil palm, sufficient degraded land is available to accommodate expansion, provided land governance and incentive systems are developed to steer expansion onto degraded lands and away from areas with high carbon stocks and high biodiversity value. Improving the yields of smallholder independent growers is the major challenge, but should not be insurmountable. Byerlee is a co-author of The Tropical Oil Crop Revolution: Food, Feed, Fuel and Forests (published 7 November 2016).

Survival of nearly 10,000 orangutans in Borneo oil palm concessions is at stake
—Erik Meijaard & Marc Ancrenaz, Mongabay 2017-02-27
Borneo Futures orangutan researchers Erik Meijaard and Marc Ancrenaz report on the results of their new study of 2,717 plantations on Borneo. The results provide evidence that RSPO-certified concessions on Borneo lose 25 times less forest and orangutan habitat than non-certified concessions.  The findings further indicate that the absolute loss of orangutans is significantly lower in RSPO concessions on Borneo than in non-RSPO certified estate and concessions, but that relative loss rates are about the same. The authors conclude that there is room for further improvement of environmental practices in RSPO-certified estates and concessions, but that orangutans have better prospects in management units owned by RSPO members, because of more effectively avoided forest losses.

Climate Change & Pollution

New UN climate chief says global action to curb climate change is unstoppable
—Roger Harrabin, BBC News 2017-02-27
New UN Climate Chief Patricia Espinosa said she would travel to the US to try to meet the new US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson regarding US President Trump’s statement that he intends to withdraw from the UN climate deal and halt funding for the UN’s clean energy program.  Ms. Espinosa said that for the US to leave the climate talks process would be more damaging than stopping funding for the clean energy program. The US pays approximately US$4 million toward the clean energy program every year, and has sometimes provided additional funding. “We are of course worried about rumors [about the] possibility of the US pulling out of the Paris agreement and the UN Convention on Climate Change,” Espinosa said.  She did not explain how the US could remain within the Paris framework while scrapping its own emissions strategy which undergirds that process.

Endangered seagrass meadows escosystems can sequester atmosphere-warming carbon
—Carl Zimmer, The New York Times 2017-02-16

Seagrass meadows, among the most endangered ecosystems on earth, play outsized roles in ocean health, sheltering important fish species, filtering pollutants from seawater, and locking up huge amounts of atmosphere-warming carbon, and can also purge bacterial pathogens that threaten humans and coral reef animals, according to a study of the retreat of seagrass in Chesapeake Bay in the journal Global Change Biology.  Worldwide, seagrass meadow soils have accumulated an estimated 9 billion tons of carbon, but nearly a third of the world’s seagrass meadows have died off since the 19th century. As seagrass meadows disappear as the result of development, pollution, and other stressors, that carbon is being released back into the ocean. |

Conservation & Protected Areas

$23m for Bird's Head Seascape Conservation
—Dion Bisara Jakarta Post 2017-02-25
Global conservation organizations and the Indonesian government announced on Friday (24/02) that they have raised $23 million for Blue Abadi Fund, a marine conservation trust, to protect the Bird's Head Peninsula in West Papua. The Blue Abadi Fund aims to provide grants to local communities and agencies that manage 12 protected areas across the peninsula. "These protected areas still exist thanks to the support and involvement of the local communities and fishermen," said Rob Walton of the Walton Family Foundation, one of the fund's main supporters. |

Indonesia Pledges $1b Annually to Clean Up Its Seas
—Dion Bisara Jakarta Globe 2017-02-24
Indonesia has pledged up to $1 billion annually to clean up its seas from plastic debris and other waste over the next eight years. "At the end of 2025 we will have gotten rid of 70% of the plastic waste in our seas," Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister Luhut Pandjaitan said at the Economist World Ocean Summit in Bali. "Indonesia has fought successfully against illegal fishermen and armed pirates. Now we'll lead the way in cleaning up our seas from plastic debris.

Gov't Asks World Bank to Review Benoa Bay Reclamation Plan
—Dion Bisara Jakarta Globe 2017-02-23
The government has called in independent researchers from the World Bank and Udayana University to help it evaluate plans for the controversial Benoa Bay reclamation project, a senior minister said on Thursday (23/02). The project to develop a tourist resort and racing circuit was initiated in 2012, led by businessman Tommy Winata, but it has met growing resistance from Bali residents. "The team will also examine the feasibility of a proposed ring road around the Bali coastline and a cruise-ship port in Benoa," said Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan on Thursday (23/02) on the sidelines of the World Ocean Summit.

Global program to save coral reefs launched
—Greg Hassall & Rebecca Latam ABC News 2017-02-24
A new coral reef conservation initiative will select fifty reefs worldwide to identify coral reefs that will be least vulnerable to climate change and most capable of regenerating in the future. Led by Ocean Agency and the University of Queensland, the initiative seeks to address the threats posed by climate change, pollution, over-fishing and development, which are expected to bring about the destruction of 90% of the world’s coral reefs by 2050.The program, which is supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies, Tiffany & Co. Foundation, and the Paul G. Allen foundation, was announced at the Economist World Ocean Summit in Bali, Indonesia on 23 February. |

Camera traps reveal undiscovered leopard population in Javan forest
—Hariyawan A. Wahyudi Mongabay 2017-02-10
The Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry announced that remote cameras had confirmed the existence of Japan leopards (Panthera pardus ssp. melas) in Cikepuh, a wildlife sanctuary on the south coast of Java.  The animals are listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN, which in 2008 estimated the total population at 350-325, with less than 250 mature breeding adults. The leopards were previously believed to have died out in this area in the early 2000s.  However, three individuals have now been spotted by the camera traps, and eight more leopards are now believed to inhabit the sanctuary.

Jobs and revenue evaporate as Indonesia and the Philippines hobble the mining industry
—Economist 23 February 2017
Three years ago, Indonesia banned the export of unrefined metal ores, resulting in the closure of hundreds of mines, loss of thousands of jobs, and a collapse in government revenue from mining.  In January, Jakarta relaxed the ban, allowing some exports of unprocessed nickel and bauxite, but insisted that foreign mining firms operating under the older, more secure Contract of Work (CoW) convert them to a new form of mining license.  Freeport, which operates the world’s biggest copper and gold mine in Papua Province, has refused to give up its CoW, halting production and suspending investment. Now mining firms in the Philippines are resisting the decision to close 23 of the country’s 41 mines for environmental violations.


Environmental lawyer killed in the Philippines
—Isabel Esterman Mongabay 2017-02-21
Mia Mascariñas-Green, a lawyer with the NGO Environmental Legal Assistance Center (ELAC) who also handles civil and criminal cases, was ambushed and shot dead in front of her three children on the island of Bohol in the Visayas region of the Philippines.  “We condemn the unspeakable cruelty and sheer cowardice by the murderers and masterminds who shot Mia more than 20 times in front of her daughter and her two-year-old twins and their nanny,” Mia’s colleagues at ELAC said in a statement. “Such ambush in broad daylight by still unidentified assassins riding motorbikes fits the pattern of violence that has become an all too familiar scene that has petrified our nation.”  The Philippines is considered one of the most dangerous countries in the world for environmental activists. At least 100 environment and land defenders were killed between 2002 and 2015, according to Global Witness. Local rights groups say that ten Filipino environment activists have been killed in the seven months following the inauguration of President Rodrigo Duterte in June 2016.

Rampant corruption in villages caused by incompetence: ICW
—Jakarta Post 2017-02-19
Sixty-one village heads across Indonesia were arrested for corruption in 2016, according to a report by the Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW) released on Sunday. Researcher Wana Alamsyah cited a phenomenon called “local elite capture” in which leaders at the village level misused village funds disbursed from the central government. In 2016, the government allocated Rp 47 trillion (US$ 3.5 billion) for the village fund program. Another ICW researcher, Febri Hendri, said the incompetence of village officials was also one of the reasons behind the “local elite capture” phenomenon. "Many village officials are still lacking adequate capability in managing village funds," he said.

Australia and Indonesia restore military ties, commit to new trade deal
- Stephanie Anderson & Dan Conifer ABC News 2017-02-26
Indonesia and Australia will fully restore military ties following a meeting between President Joko Widodo and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, following Indonesia’s decision to suspend all cooperation following complaints about “insulting training posters” at a Special Air Services headquarters in Perth.  The leaders announced an agreement on lower tariffs for Australian sugar and reduced barriers to Australian imports of Indonesian pesticides and chemical products.

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