Small island fishermen call on Indonesian president to end coastal dredging
- Fishermen on a small island off Sumatra, Indonesia, have called for an end to coastal dredging which they say has decimated their daily catch.
- Sand dredging along the northern coast of Rupat Island took place from September to December last year, coming to a halt due to protests from fishermen.
- Fishermen have called on Indonesia’s president and energy minister to revoke the dredging company’s permit, and are backed by findings from an environmental group on high rates of shoal erosion in the area .
- The government issued 1,400 dredging permits across Indonesia in November 2021, covering an area of almost 3 million hectares (7.4 million acres) and affecting some 35,000 fishermen, activists say.
PEKANBARU, Indonesia – Fishermen in Indonesia’s Riau province have called on President Joko Widodo to halt sea dredging operations which they say threaten their livelihoods and the marine ecosystem.
The letter, delivered in April to Widodo and the energy minister, calls for the revocation of the permit held by the dredging company PT Logomas Utama. The company is currently licensed to dredge sand on 5,030 hectares (12,430 acres) on the northern coast of Rupat Island, off Riau Province in Sumatra. The petition follows a government initiative to review thousands of palm oil and mining permits and revoke those deemed too slow in exploiting natural resources.
“We are not casually accusing them here,” Akhun, a member of Adesta Seagull Fisher, said at a press conference on April 18. “Before sand mining started, our catch was enough to cover household expenses. It has gone down so much since dredging started.
He added that the dredging had put “our families at risk”, with “almost nothing” to bring home for their wives and children. “Pay attention to us,” Akhun said. “Help us little fishermen.”
Fishermen accuse Logomas, which began operating in the region in 2021, of destroying their fishing grounds, resulting in a decimation of daily catches: from 10-20 kilograms (22-44 pounds) previously, to 1-2 kg (2 ,2-4.4 pounds) today. Environmental activists have also expressed concern over the dredging, saying it violates a 2007 law on the management of coastal areas and small islands.
Preliminary results of a survey conducted by the Riau Chapter of Walhi, Indonesia’s largest environmental NGO, support fishermen’s claims about the impacts of dredging. They indicate a high rate of shoal erosion around Rupat Island.
“This has been at odds with efforts to develop tourism on Rupat Island and surrounding smaller islands,” said Even Sembiring, executive director of Walhi Riau. said in a press release. “Sand mining activities have damaged the tourist destination.”
Logomas obtained its concession in 1999, but did not start mining for several years, partly due to a moratorium imposed by the governor of Riau from 1998 to 2003. The company obtained a license renewal in 2017 , apparently without having updated its environmental impact study, Walhi said.
In September 2021, the company finally started dredging, prompting protests from Rupat fishermen. It ceased operations on December 24 and does not appear to have resumed since then, according to in Walhi.
“Our hope is that the president and the minister will immediately revoke Logomas’ license so that fishermen can feel safe searching for fish, shrimp and the like,” said Eriyanto, head of Grouper Fisheries Group in Suka Damai village. on the island of Rupat.
Coastal dredging to extract sand for use in construction is common around many of the remote and often uninhabited islands that make up Indonesia. The government issued 1,400 dredging permits in November 2021, covering an area of nearly 3 million hectares (7.4 million acres) and affecting some 35,000 fishermen, Walhi said. Mining threatens to exacerbate pressures on small islands that already face threats from rising sea levels and seismic activity: 83 islands, including Rupat, could be lost due to climate change , while 55 could be destroyed by earthquakes, according to a 2016 study by the country’s Marine Geology Research and Development Center.
“This is part of an accumulation of damage or crises in coastal areas and small islands that affect the livelihoods of fishermen,” said Parid Ridwanuddin, Coastal and Marine Campaigner for Walhi.
“All small islands must be protected from the extractive industry, otherwise we would lose many of these islands, which are part of the identity and characteristic of Indonesia as an archipelago.”
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