Indonesia to allow trawling despite overfishing fears

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Jan 15 2009 03:03 PM | Updated as of Jan 15 2009 11:03 PM

JAKARTA - Indonesia will allow trawling in selected areas for the first time in 30 years despite concerns about overfishing, an official said Thursday.

Trawling, in which boats tow long nets that scoop up everything in their path, would be permitted this year off four areas of Borneo island's east Kalimantan province, maritime ministry official Bambang Sutejo said.

He dismissed concerns about overfishing but acknowledged that illegal trawling was already rampant in the area.

"There will not be overfishing this time as we're only allowing small boats to trawl, and it's not allowed in other parts of Indonesia," he said, adding that legalising trawling would help fight illegal trawlers.

Chalid Muhammad of the independent Green Institute said trawling had a destructive impact on the maritime environment and would exacerbate overfishing in Indonesia.

"The total amount of fish caught is getting smaller each day while their imports are getting bigger," he said.

He said the move would embarrass Indonesia as it prepares to host the World Ocean Conference, an international gathering of policymakers and scientists, in May.

"If the government allows this, Indonesia will have a weak standing during the World Ocean Conference as sustainable management of marine resources will be discussed," Muhammad said.