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 – 18: 19 September 2017

Marine & Fisheries

Commercial catch of aquarium fish halted by Hawaii Supreme Court
— Nathan Eagle, Honolulu Civil Beat 6 September 2017
The Hawaii Supreme Court has ordered a halt to the commercial collecting of ornamental aquarium fish in Hawaii pending an environmental review. The unanimous decision against the state Department of Land and Natural Resource (DLNR) directed the Circuit Court to issue a prohibitory injunction halting the issuance of new permits for the use of small-mesh nets and traps employed by aquarium collectors, bringing to an end what plaintiffs called the “DLNR’s practice of blindly doling out aquarium protection permits without studying environmental impacts.”  Previously, there was no limit on the number of aquarium fish permits the state could issue. Over 1999-2020, the aquarium trade catch ranged from 412,5887 to 1.02 million animals a year, according to the court order. The court said further proceedings are necessary to determine if there is a need for a prohibitory injunction on recreational aquarium collection permits as well. The plaintiffs, who included concerned Hawaii citizens, divers, subsistence fishermen and environmental and animal-welfare groups, have pushed for an outright ban on aquarium fish collection in state waters. 
(Note:  Shutting down Hawaii as a source of ornamental tropical fishes and invertebrates could place more pressure on Indonesia and other Indo-Pacific countries in the Coral Triangle to increase production for the aquarium fish industry.)

Shark poachers caught red-handed in dawn raid by Sea Shepherd and East Timor National Police
— Sea 12 September 2017
A joint operation between Sea Shepherd's M/V Ocean Warrior and the East Timor National Police (Policia Nacionale Timor-L’Este) resulted in the capture of a fleet of 15 vessels belonging to China’s Hong Long Fisheries/Pingtan Marine Enterprises at anchor off the coast of Com, East Timor.  The fleet had been using anchored gill nets to target demersal species, with the catch found on board the boats consisting 95% of sharks.  Other vessels belonging to Pingtan Marine Enterprises Ltd. (PME) were impounded and their crew jailed in Ecuador last month, after being captured fishing inside Galapagos National Park with 300 tons of shark. “Unscrupulous foreign commercial fishing activities must be stopped in Timor L’Este,” Dr. José Ramos-Horta said in a meeting with Sea Shepherd campaign leader Gary Stokes.  “We must protect our natural resources; it is an outrage.” PME is headquartered in Fuzhou, Fujian province, China, and is listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange in the US (PME:NASDAQ CM). Last May, PME shares dropped 28.2% in a single day following a report by a short-seller alleging that a syndicate of companies were using Pingtan to “finance international crimes of fraud, poaching and even human trafficking.” Boats operated by PME previously operated in Indonesia’s Arafura Sea, but were kicked out  Minister of Marine Affairs and Fisheries Susi Pudjiastuti in 2014. (This may be part of the reason the company’s fishing vessels are now more active in Timor L’Este.)

Fisheries investment is slowing down 
— LKT, Kompas 5 September 2017
For the past three years, foreign and domestic investment growth in Indonesia’s fisheries sector has been slowing down. In the first half of 2017, the value of realized investments was only 21% of the value in 2016. From January to June 2017, Indonesian Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM) recorded realization of investment in 96 projects with a value of Rp125.58 billion (US$ 9.7 million), whereas in 2016 realized investment was recorded at 124 projects with value of Rp571.56 billion (US$ 43.2 million). One reason for the decline has been the lack of stable supply of raw material to processing units over the past two years. Coordinator of National Destructive Fishing Watch (DWF) Indonesia, Mohammad Abdi Suhufan, stated that the fisheries sector needs guaranteed stable raw material supply. About 70-80% of Indonesian capture fisheries production comes from small-scale fishers operating vessels under 30 GT, making it difficult to assure a stable supply of raw material to processors.

Opinion: The fishing wars are coming
— James G. Stavridis and Johan Bergenas, The Washington Post 13 September 2017
The escalating conflict over fishing could lead to a “global fish war” in which fish scarcity could be the next catalyst. The decline in nearly half of global fish stocks in recent decades is a growing existential threat to the one billion people around the world who rely on seafood as their primary source of protein. In order to keep its people fed and employed, the Chinese government is directly providing millions of dollars in subsidies to its distant water fishing fleet and is militarizing the worldwide robbing of ocean resources. Countries on the receiving end of Chinese actions are responding in kind: Indonesia has blown up hundreds of vessels fishing in its waters illegally; Argentina sank a Chinese vessel illegally fishing in its waters last year; and South Africa continues to clash with Beijing over fishing practices. Recently, Ecuador summoned the Chinese ambassador to condemn China’s fishing in Ecuadoran maritime territory following the seizure of 300 tons of illegally sourced fish. The United States could be next. Chinese vessels are increasingly fishing near our waters and are seeking to expand their footprint in the Caribbean. U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Jay Caputo recently underscored this point: “It is imperative that the Coast Guard be prepared for when the Chinese fishing militia approaches the U.S. [exclusive economic zone].” (James G. Stavridis was the 16th supreme allied commander at NATO and is dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. Johan Bergenas is senior director for public policy at Vulcan Inc.)

Mobilization to Natuna continues 
— Sri Mas Sari, Bisnis 31 August 2017
Government continued the mobilization of former cantrang (modified trawl gear vessels) from North Java Sea to Natuna water despite declining stock. Director-General of Captured Fisheries, Sjarif Widjaja explained that not all species of fish face declining stock in Fisheries Management Area (WPP) 711, which covers the Karimata Strait, Natuna Sea and the South China Sea.  Fish production in WPP 711 accounts for only 37,000 tons per year, still below total allowable catch equivalent to 80% of the total estimated potential resources. Sjarif explained that the program to mobilize former cantrang fishersis aligned with government program to improve the development of Indonesia small and outer islands through establishment of Marine and Fisheries Centre in Lampa Strait in Natuna.

Opinion: Japan to assist Indonesia securing North Natuna Sea
— Jarryd de Haan, Future Directions International 13 September 2017 Donors & Sponsors
Japan will provide support to Indonesia for infrastructure development along the six outer islands of Banda Aceh, Natuna, Morotai, Saumlaki, Moa and Biak. The agreement came on 6 September during a meeting between Indonesian Marine Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti and Hiroto Izumi, special adviser to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Under the agreement, Japan will assist with the development of the Indonesia fishing industry, including the construction of fishing ports and the provision of patrol boats and radar facilities to protect and better utilize the marine resources in Indonesian waters. Japan and Indonesia agreed in January to continue their co-operation in the maritime sector, which Abe described as a ‘top priority’ in their bilateral relationship. Brahmantya Poerwadi, an official at the Indonesian Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, noted that further maritime cooperation agreements are expected later this year, possibly on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit to be held in Manila in November. (Independent Strategic Analysis of Australia’s Global Interest)

In search of Indonesian salmon 
— Mulia Nurhasan, The Jakarta Post 15 September 2017
Fish known to be good sources of the omega-3 fatty acids DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) such as salmon are heavily exploited to supply the demand for healthy fish oils around the world.  Almost half of all world fish species live in Indonesia’s waters,  6,200 of which are marine fish species. But only 18 Indonesian fishes have been reliably documented as good sources of DHA or EPA. There are also inconsistent test results for the same species. The most reliable data set is an article published last year in the Journal of Food Composition and Analysis which revealed that the following common fish in Indonesia can be sources of DHA and EPA:  Mackerel (kembung) contains 185-189 mg of DHA and/or EPA per 100 grams fish when steamed or fried, small red fish (ikan merah kecil) ha 165 mg/100 g fish when steamed, smaller tuna (tongkol) is 187 mg/100 g fish when steamed, while tinned sardine (sarden kalengan) has  352 mg/100 g (edible portion), squid (cumi) is 220 mg/100 g fish when fried, and anchovies or teri 255 mg/100 g fish when steamed and salted. Other less reliable studies show that Anguila or eel (ikan sidat), Sardinella lemuru (ikan lemuru) and Spanish mackerel (ikan tenggiri) can also be good sources of DHA and EPA.

Forestry & Land Use

Samsung backs out of Korindo deal over destruction of rainforests in Papua
— Hans Nicholas Jong, Mongabay 14 September 2017
Samsung announced it is backing out of a strategic partnership in logistics with the Korean-Indonesian conglomerate Korindo because of the controversy over Korindo’s alleged violations of human rights and illegal destruction of forestlands in Papua to make room for oil palm plantations. Samsung still has a stake in the palm oil business in Indonesia through ownership of two plantations on Sumatra, part of its joint venture with the Ganda Group.  Mighty Earth, the NGO whose report targeted Korindo’s activities in Papua, launched an online petition calling on Samsung to cut ties with Korindo which gathered 73,000 signatures, including 15,000 signatures from users of Samsung phones.  The campaign also involved more than 2,000 Samsung customers who sent emails to the company from their Samsung devices.

Palm oil giant FGV promises to endeavor to rehabilitate peatlands it trashed in Borneo
— Basten Gokkon, Mongabay 13 September 2017
Felda Global Ventures, had previously been charged with breaking its year-old pledge to stop clearing rainforests and peatlands for oil palm plantations and violating its obligations as a member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) by clearing more than 1,000 ha of natural peat forest Indonesian Borneo (Kalimantan).  In a statement in August, FGV said it has “permanently discontinued” land development work in its concessions, promised not to develop peat lands “irrespective of when the lands were acquired or owned by FGV group.  The company also said it would “endeavor” to rehabilitate the peatlands which had been converted since it issued its commitment not to clear rainforests and peatlands in August 2016.  Erik Wakker, a member of the Chain Reaction Research team and a consultant at Aidenvironment Asia, called this the most ambitious peat rehabilitation commitment ever made by any RSPO member.  The RSPO is investigating the allegations against FGV, a spokesman said.

Only 16.7% of Indonesia's Oil Palm Plantations ISPO Certified
— Indonesia Investment 29 August 2017
The Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO) scheme, an Indonesian government program, aims to boost the competitiveness of Indonesian palm oil on the global market and to protect the environment by reducing greenhouse gases as well as giving attention to environmental issues. In principle, ISPO certification should give consumers with the necessary assurance that the palm oil product they have purchased is produced legally (meaning the company has obtained the required permits) and in an environment-friendly way. However, according to Bambang, Director General of Plantation at Indonesia's Ministry of Agriculture, only 16.7% of the total 11.9 million hectares of oil palm plantations are ISPO certified. The government is calling for more Indonesian palm oil companies become ISPO certified in order to improve the quality and sustainability of the palm oil industry and it would also enhance international recognition of ISPO certification.

Under attack from the EU, top palm oil producers are rethinking trade strategy
— Bernadette Christina Munthe, et al, Reuters 13 September 2017
Facing a backlash in Europe over palm oil’s environmental toll, the world’s top producers are scrambling to find new markets and striking unusual barter deals, such as exchanging palm oil for Russian Sukhoi jets. The industry is currently waging a global public relations battle and pushing producers to enter more price-sensitive markets, where Indonesia should have an advantage over Malaysia due to its lower production costs. So far, overall palm oil sales to the European Union have held up. Indonesian exports rose about 40% to 2.7 million tons in the first half of 2017 from a year earlier. Indonesia’s overall palm exports were worth US$18 billion last year, with sales to the EU sales accounting for 16%, according to the Indonesian Palm Oil Association (GAPKI). For Malaysia, the EU accounted for nearly 13% of exports. The European parliament voted in April voted to phase out all imports of unsustainable palm oil by 2020. Indonesian Trade minister Enggartiasto Lukita in May warned his EU counterparts that Jakarta might not buy Airbus planes in retaliation, the Jakarta Post reported. Now Indonesia is looking at new markets for palm oil in Africa through barter trades, proposing a swap of palm oil for crude oil, Lukita told reporters on a visit to Nigeria. Indonesia signed a preliminary deal last month with Russia’s Rostec to exchange a range of commodities, including palm oil, as part of the US$1.14 billion payment for 11 Sukhoi jets. GAPKI’s executive director Sahat Sinaga said palm oil producers will open a marketing and research company in Russia, aiming to increase current exports to Russia of 920,000 tones by 4-5% per year over the next six years.

We'd rather die than lose': villagers in Indonesia fight for a land rights revolution
— Vincent Bevins, Guardian 3 September 2017
Members of the small Pandumaan-Sipituhuta indigenous community on the island of Sumatra are at the center of an historic struggle that could transform the rules of capitalism in Indonesia, affecting tens of millions of people. Along with a handful of other communities, they have cited newly affirmed indigenous rights provisions in the constitution and lobbied to secure President Joko Widodo’s support, in the hope that they will be finally granted legal control over their traditional lands. Many land experts, human rights activists and environmentalists believe their approach may be Indonesia’s best chance to sort out a muddled and exploitative system of laws regulating land rights which has been in place since a violent, US-backed dictatorship essentially took all the land in Indonesia to distribute to its cronies. But success is far from guaranteed. Political support in Jakarta, the capital, might be fickle, and there are numerous logistical hurdles. “The problem in Indonesia is that you have overlapping claims to the same land, and you have concessions that tend to have been originally granted [under the Suharto dictatorship] to generals and friends of political elites,” says John McCarthy, a professor at Australian National University who studies land rights in Indonesia.

Energy, Climate Change and Pollution

Ecosystems’ ability to recovery from drought may worsen with climate change
— Christopher R. Schwalm et al, Nature 19 August 2017 pp. 202-205
Drought is the most widespread climactic extreme negatively affecting the land carbon sink.  A new paper in Nature, “Global patterns of drought recovery”, shows that the impacts of droughts on terrestrial ecosystems and mean time to recovery increased during the 20th century, with recovery times longer in the high northern latitudes and in the tropics and longest of all in Indonesia and Amazonia.  The interplay between more frequent drought events and longer recovery times could result in a chronic state of incomplete recovery and permanently damaged ecosystems and widespread degradation of the land carbon sink in critical areas over the remainder of the 21st century.

Lingering legacy:  deforestation warms climate more than expected
— Christopher R. Schwalm et al, Nature 19 August 2017 pp. 202-205
It is widely known that clearing forests in the tropics boosts global warming, but a new study suggests the impacts may be greater than previously realized.  About 20% of the carbon dioxide (CO2) that humans added to the atmosphere has come from clearing forests, but there is also a continuing impact on global warming from the accompanying release of methane and nitrous oxide from deforested land long after the forests have been cleared.  A paper by Natalie M. Mahowald et al, “Are the impacts of land use on warming underestimated in climate policy?” in Environmental Research Letters (2 August 2017) showed that continued deforestation alone would have been likely to lead to a 1.5° C increase in global temperatures by 2100 compared to pre-industrial levels even if we had manage to slash all other sources of greenhouse gas emissions starting in 2015.

Could Indonesia's unstable coal market push the country toward renewables?
— Keith Schneider, Pacific Standard 8 September 2017 
In a report on the Indonesian electricity market released in August, Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA’s) – a United States-based research group – warned Indonesia that a central provision of its coal-based electrical strategy risked wasting US$76 billion over the next 25 years and said that Indonesia also underestimated the savings that would come from improved energy efficiency. As a result, the country's planners overestimated how much power would be needed to electrify every home and business. Essentially, said IEEFA, energy authorities, influenced by Indonesia's large coal reserves and mining job prospects, ignored both the escalating cost of fossil fuel electricity and the plunging prices for gains in efficiency and renewable energy, leading to the over-investment in fossil fuel-based generation.  In sum, the IEEFA said, Indonesia's program of building big, coal-fired power plants was obsolete. The most recent energy plan issued by the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources still projects adding another 50 gigawatts (GW) of coal-fired generating capacity by 2030. However, the agency also envisions diversifying its electric supply by producing over 60 GW from wind, solar, geothermal, biomass as well as big and small hydropower plants over the next 13 years. IEEFA counters in its newest study that most of the 50 GW of new coal-fired generating capacity will not be needed. Virtually all of it can come from clean, renewable energy sources constructed much more quickly at much lower cost in small plants or affixed to roofs and distributed across every one of Indonesia's inhabited islands, IEEFA said.

ADB to provide Indonesia's energy sector with over US$1 Billion in loans
—The Financia, 14 September 2017 
The Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) Board of Directors approved two loans totaling up to US$1.1 billion to strengthen and diversify Indonesia’s energy sector, which is considered key to promoting inclusive growth and sustainable future development in the country. The first loan is a US$500 million policy-based loan (including US$100 million from the ASEAN Infrastructure Fund) for Indonesia’s  Sustainable and Inclusive Energy Program Subprogram 2. The second is a US$600 million results-based loan to the State Electricity Corporation (PLN), guaranteed by the Republic of Indonesia, which will boost access to sustainable and modern energy services in eastern Indonesia. “Increased access to affordable and sustainable sources of energy is a pre-requisite for the government to meet its economic growth aspirations,” said Winfried Wicklein, ADB Country Director in Indonesia. “The two loans approved today will, respectively, improve the enabling policy environment to increase public and private investment in Indonesia’s energy sector, and support and develop the power distribution network in Eastern Indonesia.”

Seahorse photo highlights perils of marine pollution
— The Strait Times 17 September 2017
A tiny seahorse grasping a pink cotton bud in murky water captured by American nature photographer Justin Hofman has placed the spotlight on ocean pollution after it went viral this past week. The image, titled “Sewage Surfer”, is part of the Wildlife Photographer of The Year Exhibition by London's Natural History Museum. Mr Hofman is one of the finalists in the Wildlife Photographer of The Year competition. The photograph was taken at a reef near Indonesia's Sumbawa Island. "It's a photo that I wish didn't exist but that now that it does, I want everyone to see it," Mr. Hofman wrote, posting on Instagram last week. "What started as an opportunity to photograph a cute little seahorse turned into one of frustration and sadness as the incoming tide brought with it countless pieces of trash and sewage,". Hofman said, adding that the photo is an allegory for the current and future state of our oceans.

Indonesia, New Zealand Co-Chair meeting to combat ocean pollution
— Jakarta Globe 6 September 2017
Indonesia and New Zealand on co-chaired the East Asia Summit Conference on Combating Marine Plastic Debris in Bali as the two countries seek to address the issue in a collective effort to protect the environment.  "Our ocean faces a serious problem. Every year, at least 12.7 tons of plastic debris are thrown into the ocean. They not only pollute the ocean, but endanger the continuity of all living beings, including us," said Jose Tavares, Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affair's Director General for cooperation with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean). An estimated 80% of plastic debris polluting the ocean comes from land-based sources, mainly due to ineffective waste management and unregulated behavior from coastal communities across the globe in managing plastic waste. Jose said the East Asia Summit (EAS) must play an "active and crucial role [to combat marine plastic debris]," expressing Indonesia's hope that the two-day conference will produce concrete solutions to resolve the issue at hand. This week’s conference is a follow up to a 2015 statement from EAS on enhancing regional maritime cooperation. The conference is expected to craft policy recommendations to help support efforts to solve the issue of marine plastic debris among EAS countries.

Conservation & Protected Areas

Tiger species thought extinct is possibly spotted in Indonesia
— Jon Emont, The New York Times 15 September 2017 
Rangers in Ujung Kulon National Park in West Java shot video footage of a big cat some think may be a Javan tiger (Panthera tigris ssp. sondaica), a tiger sub-species that was believed to have been extinct since the 1970s.  At the end of the 19th Century, Javan tigers inhabited most of Java, but clearing of land for plantations and/or rice agriculture destroyed most of their former habitat. Javan populations of the Javan Rusa deer (Rusa timorensis spp russa), the tigers’ most important prey species, were wiped out in some forested areas during the 1960s, and armed groups who moved into mountainous areas following political unrest in 1965 may have killed many of the remaining tigers. Some conservationists were skeptical that the animal in the video is the celebrated Javan tiger. Wulan Pusparini, a tiger expert at the World Conservation Society (WCS), said the animal more closely resembled a leopard. The Javan leopard (Panthera pardus ssp. melas), a distinct sub-species known only from the island of Java, is considered critically endangered, with an adult breeding population of fewer than 250 animals. The sub-species’ population is believed to be in rapid decline due to loss of habitat, poaching, and prey base depletion.


Raja Ampat Business Associations is awarded Equator Prize
— Stay Raja Ampat 17 September 2017
The Raja Ampat Homestay Association (Asosiasi Usaha Homestay Lokal Kabupatan Raja Ampat), located in the Bird’s Head Seascape of West Papua, was awarded the UNDP 2017 Equator Prize for its effort to create sustainable jobs through ecotourism at a ceremony to honour outstanding initiatives of indigenous peoples and local communities. “We simply could not have imagined in 2011 that a tiny website and a handful of homestays which sat empty for most of the year would in six short years develop together into a community organization that has created more than 600 jobs and currently generates over US$1.5 million per year for local village economies,” Association leaders Stefani Arwakon, and Kristian Sauyai said in New York. <


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