DENPASAR/JAKARTA, INDONESIA — An aquaculture farm network is being planned by the Indonesian government to boost the country's post-pandemic economic recovery by catering to worldwide demand for farmed fish.
According to the country's fisheries ministry, more than 130 such "aquaculture villages" will be constructed by the end of 2022 in Indonesia. Aquaculture products will be cultivated in the villages, such as shrimp, lobster, crab, and seaweed.
At an online event, TB Haeru Rahayu, director-general of aquaculture fisheries, said that the priority is to increase the production of commodities for export. According to him, this scheme would improve the country's food security while also creating new jobs.
President Joko Widodo instructed the fisheries ministry to increase Indonesia's aquaculture production when he took office for a second term in 2019. From 1990 to 2018, global aquaculture production expanded by 527 percent, with Indonesia being one of the world's leading producers. Aquaculture production in the third quarter of 2021 reached 12.25 million metric tons, an increase of 6 percent over the same period in 2020. According to the ministry, aquaculture brought in a non-tax state income of $1.94 million for the year ending November 2021, well above the planned amount of $1.39 million.
While Indonesia leads the world in frozen saltwater shrimp exports, it falls behind its neighbors in freshwater shrimp exports and fresh, salted, or smoked shrimp exports. The Asian tiger shrimp (Penaeus monodon) and white leg shrimp are two of their most popular exports (Litopenaeus vannamei).
As the government moves to increase aquaculture production, experts believe it must ensure sustainable environmental planning, especially land clearing and waste management for the farms.
Abdul Halim, executive director of the Center for Maritime Studies for Humanity, claimed that Indonesia's aquaculture farms have traditionally been built by destroying carbon-rich mangrove forests. According to the Center for International Forestry Research, Indonesia has lost over half of its mangrove land during the previous three decades (CIFOR). President Widodo set a lofty target in 2021: by 2024, he wanted to replace 600,000 hectares (1,500,000 acres) of deteriorated shoreline with mangroves.
Aquaculture farms have long been plagued by challenges related to waste management, and Abdul urged the government to address these issues. Fifteen lakes were declared "critical" in 2019 by the planning ministry due to environmental degradation, primarily caused by human activities like pollution, deforestation, and damaging fishing methods. Several reports of catastrophic fish deaths repeatedly occur in various lakes.
Indonesia's national coordinator of the NGO Destructive Fishing Watch (DFW) Indonesia, Abdi Suhufan, stated the country's aquaculture sector has fundamental issues, including a comprehensive map of farms, clearly defined status for the land, and effective water management.
For years, the government has prioritized the revival of the shrimp farming business, focusing on preventing the destruction of mangroves. Even yet, Abdi stated, "little or no progress" has been made on that front.
"If the aquaculture sector is to meet its production goals, a fundamental shift is needed," he added.