This is the end, beautiful friend, the end

by Molly Timmers

After three days of travel across space and time, we arrived in Dili, the capital of Timor-Leste. This country is located about an hour’s flight northwest from Darwin, Australia across the Timor Sea. It shares its border with Indonesia, which occupies the western half of the island of Timor. Unbeknownst to most, Timor-Leste only just recently became a sovereign nation after years of struggle and resistance to an Indonesian occupation. Having gained its independence in 2002, this country is one of the newest countries in the world. It is also one of the most biologically diverse countries in the world for coral reefs.


Reef at Atauro Island, Timor-Leste (Photo: NOAA Fisheries/Molly Timmers).

Timor-Leste resides within the Coral Triangle, a region known as the center of marine biodiversity. As a result of its geographical location between the Pacific and Indian Oceans and its geological history, the Coral Triangle has the highest coral and fish diversity in the world.  It hosts 76% (605) of the world’s coral species (798) and 37% (2228) of known coral reef fish species (6000). This incredibly diverse region includes Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Malaysia, Philippines, the Solomon Islands, and of course, Timor-Leste.


Map of the six countries of the Coral region. Solid line shows scientific boundary of the Coral Triangle (Veron et al., 2009). Dashed line shows the Exclusive Economic Zones of the six countries (Image courtesy of Coral Triangle Secretariat).

As a new country, Timor-Leste began working toward developing management strategies to protect and conserve their coral reefs and the animals that live within. However, they found it challenging to proceed because scientific information about their nearshore coastal resources was limited. Thus, in 2011, the Government of Timor-Leste’s Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF) requested assistance from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and NOAA to support them in addressing the following 5 questions:

  • Where are Timor-Leste’s nearshore marine resources?
  • What are Timor-Leste’s nearshore resources?
  • How are coastal resources changing over time?
  • What are the threats causing those changes?
  • What approaches are needed to help manage and conserve nearshore resources over the long-term?

TIMOR_COVER_image As a result, USAID requested the assistance of NOAA’s Coral Reef Ecosystem Program (CREP) of the Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center. With over 15 years of experience mapping and monitoring the coral reef ecosystems and their associated threats across U.S. Pacific coral reefs, CREP agreed to assist Timor-Leste in their efforts to address these questions by conducting baseline surveys over the period 2012 to 2016 under the partnership agreement between MAF, USAID, and NOAA. Last month, we returned to Timor-Leste to conclude this partnership by delivering the Final Report to our Timor-Leste partners and working with them on how to utilize the collected data to inform ecosystem-based coastal resource management planning in Timor-Leste.

On the 26th of June, we presented the Final Report produced by our program in an all-day workshop event and provided a separate training on how to use the data in a geospatial format (aka, mapping software) the following day.  The all-day workshop was held at MAF’s new conference center.  Over 70 people from 19 agencies attended, including: Estanislau Aleixo da Silva, the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries; Ms. Karen Stanton, the U.S. Ambassador to Timor-Leste; and Jose Ramos-Horta, a 1996 Nobel Peace Prize recipient and one of Timor-Leste’s former presidents who signed the agreement for Timor-Leste to become one of the six Coral Triangle Initiative countries. The U.S. Embassy graciously provided their interpreter who translated in real-time between Tetun (the locale Timorese language) and English through wireless ear bud systems that enabled us to seamlessly share our presentations and effectively engage our audience in question and answer sessions.


Photograph from the all-day workshop hosted by the Government of Timor-Leste’s Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF), led by NOAA’s Coral Reef Ecosystem Program (NOAA CREP), and funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). From left to right: Acacio Guterres, Director General for Fisheries (MAF); Raimundo Mau, Program Manager, Conservation International; former Timor-Leste President Jose Ramos-Horta; Estanislau Aleixo da Silva, Minister of MAF; Karen Stanton, U.S. Ambassador; Diana Putman, USAID Mission Director; Molly Timmers (NOAA CREP); Flavia da Silva (USAID); and Annette DesRochers (NOAA CREP).

Ambassador Stanton opened the workshop and Minister da Silva followed with his opening remarks. To symbolize the closure of this 5-year partnership, we presented copies of the Final Report and detailed scientific maps to Ambassador Stanton who then proceeded to hand them to the Minister.  Once the symbolic hand-off was complete, the workshop commenced.

Map presentation

U.S. Ambassador Karen Stanton presents the map posters prepared by the NOAA Coral Reef Ecosystem Program to Estanislau Aleixo da Silva, the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries.

We started with a series of presentations on the project background and key findings. This was followed by a nearly two-hour question and answer session and a delicious late lunch due to the high-level of engagement by the participants. After lunch, more detailed presentations ensued. We framed our presentations around MAF’s 5 original questions and shared in more detail the work that we did to try and answer their questions. To make this information as accessible as possible, the report and data are freely available and hosted online at NOAA’s Coral Reef Information System. Once we finished with all we had to share, we had another question and answer session followed by closing remarks made by Diana Putman, the USAID Timor-Leste Mission Director, and Acacio Guterres, Director General for Fisheries (MAF).

The following day we conducted a hands-on training for MAF employees on how to use the data we produced for MAF. They learned how to access and convert the survey data so it could be displayed in mapping software with other spatial data, and how they could “ask questions” of the data using the mapping tools. Participants learned how to work with data in new ways that they previously didn’t know were possible.

For our final day, we spent the afternoon meeting with our partners answering last minute questions; this officially brought an end to our partnership. It is with such sweet sorrow that we see this project come to an end. Many of us at CREP have spent time in Timor-Leste over the past five years helping with this project and found Timor-Leste to be a home away from home. The Timorese are a gracious, kind, and motivated people. They want to protect and conserve their coral reefs and hopefully in time, they will have the capacity themselves to establish their own long-term monitoring program just as we did 15 years ago here in the U.S. Pacific Islands. We hope the work that we’ve done and the time we’ve invested will get them started down the path towards our mutual goal to protect and conserve coral reefs ecosystems.


Shallow reef along the west side of Atauro Island, Timor-Leste (Photo: NOAA Fisheries/Kevin Lino).

Philippines-U.S. Exchange Knowledge in Marine Resource Management

by Megan Moews-Asher

A school of sardines above a coral reef in Cebu, Philippines (Photo: NOAA Fisheries/Megan Moews-Asher).

What makes a successful exchange span from across an agency to across nations? The people! Recently, a group of high-level and expert scientists, managers, policymakers, and law enforcement officials from the Philippines and U.S. came together in a government-to-government peer exchange in Honolulu. They discussed fisheries and marine resource management, science, and enforcement between the two countries.

This effort—supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and several offices within NOAA Fisheries—was a success because of each and every individual (and there were many) who played a part. According to both PIFSC Director Mike Seki and Regional Administrator Mike Tosatto from the Pacific Islands Regional Office (PIRO), the exchange exceeded their expectations. Administrator Tosatto, Director Seki, and Office of Law Enforcement’s (OLE) Assistant Director Bill Pickering stated that they and many of their staff learned a lot through the exchange and were thankful to all who participated and made it such a success. In addition, Director Seki said that, “it was pretty impressive how it rolled out and that’s only through the engagement [of all parties], so I appreciate that.”


Group picture of particpants on June 26 (Day 1) of the Peer Exchange, including Philippines Undersecretary for Fisheries and Director of DA-BFAR Eduardo Gongona, Philippines Director of DENR-BMB Mundita Lim, and NOAA PIRO Regional Administrator Mike Tosatto, PIFSC Director Mike Seki, and Office of Law Enforcement Assistant Director Bill Pickering (Photo: NOAA Fisheries).


Sunset at Moalboal, Philippines (Photo: NOAA Fisheries/Megan Moews-Asher).

It all started a few years ago with a vision. USAID’s Rebecca Guieb and Dr. Rusty Brainard of NOAA discussed the need for a scientific exchange between fisheries scientists from the Philippines and United States. Over time, the concept evolved into a much broader sharing of expertise and information that brought together the Philippines Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DA-BFAR), the Department of Environment and Natural Resources Biodiversity Management Bureau (DENR-BMB), several NOAA Fisheries offices (PIFSC, PIRO, OLE, and General Counsel), as well as the U.S. Coast Guard, State of Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources, the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council, and other partners.

6.OLE_Vessel Inspection

Inspection of longline fishing vessel. Tour and discussion led by NOAA Office of Law Enforcement’s Joe Scarpa at Pier 38 (Photo: NOAA Fisheries).

In an open and honest sharing of information, participants gave their valuable time as part of the “Ecosystem-based Fisheries Management and Conservation: A Partnership in Governance, Management, Science and Enforcement” Peer Exchange that included what the different countries and agencies are currently doing to manage fisheries and conserve biodiversity, the challenges they face, and some of the key lessons-learned over the years. As stated by DENR-BMB Director Dr. Mundita Lim, “the exchange provided an insight of interconnectivity among disciplines.”

As a result of everyone’s candidness and genuine desire to make the exchange a success, the dialogue led to thoughtful and engaging presentations and discussions, new partnerships, improved collaborations, and future plans. The surprise? On Friday, June 30, the Philippines Undersecretary for Fisheries and DA-BFAR Director Commodore Eduardo Gongona and DENR-BMB Director Lim signed a “Declaration of Commitment and Action Plan for the Management of Shared Resources.” The declaration is an unprecedented effort between their two agencies to increase collaboration in the management and protection of their shared marine resources and ocean ecosystems!


Declaration signing between the Philippines Director of DENR-BMB Mundita Lim and Philippines Undersecretary for Fisheries and Director of DA-BFAR Eduardo Gongona (Photo: NOAA Fisheries).

Throughout the exchange, Undersecretary Gongona and Director Lim discussed ways in which their bureaus can work together in the future. It is anticipated that this signing will lead to a memorandum of understanding between the two bureaus in the coming months. This is an exciting prospect for the Philippines, where marine resources are some of the most highly diverse in the world, where vast fisheries and marine resources face a multitude of threats, and of utmost importance, where people depend on these resources for their food security and livelihoods.

8.UFA Tour

Inspection of longline fishing vessel. Tour and discussion led by NOAA Office of Law Enforcement’s Joe Scarpa at Pier 38 (Photo: NOAA Fisheries).

Director Seki explained, “many of the Pacific Rim countries have very similar problems.  The sense of food security and conservation is pretty much ubiquitous throughout all of our countries that rely on marine resources and it is on us as scientists and managers to make sure that the resources are there tomorrow.” To add to this, Regional Administrator Tosatto stated, “it really was striking to see how we’re dealing with common problems coming from very different ground truths and yet we’re still solving problems in much the same way, and I think we can help each other.”

Special thanks to ALL involved, but in particular, to DA-BFAR Undersecretary Eduardo Gongona, DENR-BMB Director Mundita Lim, Mike Tosatto, Mike Seki, and Bill Pickering for their time, support and leadership. In addition, to sum up the significance of the exchange and the importance of working together toward sustainability and protection of our fisheries and marine resources, a few words from Bill Pickering, “It’s a trifecta, you have to have all three sides of the triangle [science, management, enforcement] in order to make it work. I don’t think any side is more important than the other because if one of them is missing, whether it be the science, the regulations, or the enforcement part, the whole thing falls apart.” Further addressing the Peer Exchange participants, he stated, “you’re proof of that, from listening to everything you all said.”

For more information:

An Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries Management Planning workshop in North Samar, Philippines

by Supin Wongbusarakum

Vessel moored by the banks of the river in North Samar, Philippines. Photo: NOAA Fisheries/Supin Wongbusarakum

“As a government employee, I will share all my knowledge and put in all my effort by doing my tasks the best I can to ensure success of the Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries Management (EAFM) plan. Being new to the government and the concept, I will study and do more research on how to make this more effective. As an individual, I will encourage my friends to protect nature in any simple way they can in their every day life.”

– A commitment statement by a local governmental unit officer at the EAFM Workshop, Calbayog, Philippines, January 30–February 2, 2017
Fresh fish at a harbor market

Fresh fish sold at the local harbor market. Photo: NOAA Fisheries/Supin Wongbusarakum

We arrived in the town of Calbayog in Visayas Province, Philippines the weekend before our EAFM workshop, supported by USAID, with partners from the USAID-funded ECOFISH project and officers from the Philippines Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources. We began setting up the room for the workshop activities and EAFM planning process. Collectively, we pooled our creativity to transform a long, narrow room into a welcoming venue where approximately 50 local governmental unit officials from 16 municipalities from the region could work together for the next four days. The objective for the workshop was to develop an EAFM plan for the fisheries management unit in the San Bernardino Strait and Ticao Pass—moving from theory to practice with an ecosystem approach to fisheries management and sustainable development. Because we needed to reserve wall space to display workshop output each day, we posted some of the posters on the ceiling. Surprisingly, everything looked great!

Abundance of Nipa palms in the wetland

Nipa palm trees line the coast of the wetlands. Photo: NOAA Fisheries/Supin Wongbusarakum

From the windows of the meeting room, we could see a big river with incredibly lush and green vegetation along both banks and mountains in the distance.  The light evening breeze matched the slow and gentle flow of the river. As the sun dropped below the horizon we found ourselves wrapped in a pleasant stillness, with just the sound of the water slipping by and evening insects as company. Most of us were in deep thought about what we would need to do to ensure that this workshop for EAFM planning in the Philippines would be a success and set a good precedent for more to follow.

Sunset in Calbayog

The sun sets behind a boat on the Calbayog coast. Photo: NOAA Fisheries/Supin Wongbusarakum

As night fell, a local ECOFISH staffer said we might see fireflies. Having been in many places where wetlands were paved over for development, I could not remember the last time I had seen fireflies. Then, in the midst of this reverie, I heard our ECOFISH colleagues shout, “Fireflies!” Here and there around us were tiny flashing lights. As the night got darker, some trees along the banks were filled with hundreds of fireflies. The effect was magical. Throughout the EAFM planning workshop, this image of firefly-lit trees kept surfacing as a reminder that there are still places where development has not covered over nature’s magic, and as an incentive for achieving a balance between people’s resource needs and the management and stewardship of ecosystems.

Boat by river bank

Fishing boat moored on the banks of the river. Photo: NOAA Fisheries/Supin Wongbusarakum

In the workshop, we discussed this goal of balancing ecological health with human well-being through good governance. We outlined the principles of an EAFM that include coordination and cooperation for multiple objectives and precautionary approaches to address uncertainty. We went through a full EAFM planning process—the local governmental officials defined their fisheries management area, threats and issues, goals, objectives, management activities, monitoring, and financial plans. Similar to many of the areas where we work, the major threats and issues discussed in Calbayog were related to degraded fisheries resources, poverty, illegal fishing, and weak enforcement. These problems are interlinked and have to be addressed holistically, which is exactly what an ecosystem approach to fisheries management offers. We discussed different ways to sustain fisheries and develop alternative livelihoods that will help lessen pressures on marine resources. We also took into consideration different ways to engage other stakeholder groups that rely on these marine resources.

On the last day, I was asked to help close the workshop. I shared my thoughts about the fireflies of Calbayog, my impressions of the immensely valuable wetlands surrounding us, and how our work together would contribute to conserving coastal and the marine resources for future generations. The abundance of fireflies in Calbayog was not just a magic moment in my life, it was for me, a sign of how much nature around us remains intact. I asked all the participants to reflect on how each of us is committed to the goal of balancing nature and human well-being. One by one, participants came up and posted commitment statements as we thanked each other for contributing to a very productive workshop. We all agreed that it is important to continue working together so that future generations will be able to witness natural occurrences as magical as the fireflies of Calbayog.

With thanks to USAID, ECOFISH, and the Philippines Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources for supporting this workshop.


Kamusta! Fish tales from the Philippines

by Max Sudnovsky

1.EAFM_activityDuring the month of April, I had the opportunity to experience the islands of the archipelagic Republic of the Philippines. From upland areas to coastal communities, my adventure took me from the northernmost tip of Luzon Island, across the Visayas Islands, and all the way down to Mindanao. I made more than 100 new friends, stumbled my way through the Ilocano, Tagalog, and Cebuano languages, ate Danggit, Bangus, Turon, and yes, I even sang karaoke. Not only was I able to do all this in three weeks… I was able to do all of this without even leaving my hotel! Wait, how was that possible you ask? Well I’ll tell you.

Over the course of three weeks in April 2016, I was fortunate to be part of a team comprised of staff from the NOAA Coral Reef Ecosystem Program (CREP), the Philippines Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DA-BFAR) and the Ecosystems Improved for Sustainable Fisheries (ECOFISH) Project of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). At the request of Under Secretary and National Director Atty Asis Perez of DA-BFAR, and with funding from the USAID Philippines, our team worked together to deliver three Essential Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries Management (E-EAFM) training sessions for 92 BFAR Provincial Fisheries Officers from the 18 administrative regions of the Philippines.

This highly participatory course was designed to introduce provincial fisheries officers to the key principals of EAFM, enhance their ability to work with the Local Government Units in their communities, foster cross-sector coordination, and practice the crucial skills of effective communication, facilitation, and conflict management. The ultimate goal of the course is for BFAR to assist the Local Government Units in improving their existing Integrated Coastal Resource Management plans and build upon existing working relationships through co-management to sustainably manage capture fisheries. Although the course is primarily focused on coastal marine ecosystems, the process of an ecosystem approach to fisheries management can be equally applied to inland ecosystems, offshore ecosystems, or aquaculture systems.

Although the participants came from different geographic regions, many of the conversations focused on the steady decline of fisheries and destruction of the critical habitats. The factors leading to the decline were intertwined and not easily isolated for purposes of management. Nevertheless, the primary issues and conflicts were the same—various kinds of pollution, illegal and destructive fishing practices such as dynamite, air-compressor or “hookah” fishing, and the use of small-mesh fishing nets, overfishing due to an open access fishing regime in the country, a lack of planning and control of development in the shoreline and beach areas, increasing poverty among coastal dwellers, a rapidly growing population, lack of enforcement, and variable political will to address these challenges. A key driving force behind many of these issues stems from a lack of alternative livelihoods that could reduce the dependency of these communities on their natural resources, ultimately threatening the potential for sustainable use.

There are many lessons I am taking away from these three weeks of training. I can’t share them all with you here today although I will share a few. The training sessions were a true manifestation a successful government-to-government partnership. Through the support and forethought of USAID Philippines and Director Asis, the NOAA-BFAR relationship has a strong foundation, one that we look forward to continuing over the long-term as both the Philippines and the United States enter new administrations. At the heart of the EAFM process, one of the key principals is increased participation and stakeholder engagement. During our time together we realized the importance of building, strengthening, and maintaining relationships both at the institutional as well as the personal level. We were able to re-examine the multitude of resources we have available to us as we try and incorporate more holistic considerations into fisheries management by addressing the trade-offs among ecological principals, legal mandates, and the varying interests of coastal communities and stakeholders.

I can also share with you that I have a deep admiration for the participants that I’ve had the pleasure to learn from—those who serve as fisheries managers in the Philippines. It’s a tough and often thankless job. The dedication, commitment, and passion of the participants, as well as the trainers, are truly inspiring.


I would like to thank the BFAR trainers and provincial fisheries officers for taking me on this adventure to the Tanon Straight Bias Bay, San Miguel Bay, Sogod Bay, the Danajon Double Barrier Reef, Tinagong Dagat, Abba River Basin, Cagayan Valley, Anda, Bolinao, Bani, Alaminos, Tayabas Bay, Masinloc Bay, Babuyan Channel, Carraga, Sorsogon Bay, Sarangani Bay, Kalinga, and last but not least, Basilan. Throughout our time together we shared stories of our experiences, both the failures and success. We shared our hopes and concerns for the environment, the people, and the Philippines. We are hopeful that we can challenge and shift perceptions to make ecosystem-based management feasible.

NOAA Leads GIS Workshop in Timor-Leste

By Max Sudnovsky and Annette DesRochers

NOAA Fisheries’ team members Annette DesRochers and Max Sudnovsky of the Coral Reef Ecosystem Program (CREP) recently returned from a productive visit to Dili, Timor-Leste. Nearing the end of a four-year collaborative partnership between NOAA and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), DesRochers and Sudnovsky conducted a workshop over three days in support of the Government of Timor-Leste’s Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF) Agriculture and Land-Use Geographic Information System (AL-GIS).

Workshop participants from left to right: Alsina F Moulein, DNPA; Horacio Santos, DNGRIP; Maria B de Jesus, DNPs; Orlando H. Kalis, DNGRIP; Rita Soares, DNPs; Jose Quintao, DNPs; Annette DesRochers, NOAA; and Adina Alves, DNPs. Workshop participants not present in the photo include Alda Sousa, DNPA and Max Sudnovsky, NOAA. DNPA = Directorate National For Fisheries and Aquaculture, DNGRIP = Directorate National for Resource Management and Inspection, DNPs = Directorate National For Research.

Workshop participants from left to right: Alsina F Moulein, DNPA; Horacio Santos, DNGRIP; Maria B de Jesus, DNPs; Orlando H. Kalis, DNGRIP; Rita Soares, DNPs; Jose Quintao, DNPs; Annette DesRochers, NOAA; and Adina Alves, DNPs. Workshop participants not present in the photo include Alda Sousa, DNPA and Max Sudnovsky, NOAA.

The workshop was designed to provide the AL-GIS team with an introduction to how NOAA manages coral reef data and how to link the science to support fisheries management in Timor-Leste. Workshop participants from the Directorate National Fisheries and Aquaculture (DNPA), Directorate National for Resource Management and Inspection (DNGRIP), and the Directorate National for Research (DNPs) explored how to make use of the data collected by NOAA-CREP in Timor-Leste.

Workshop participants navigate a geographic information system with the coral reef data NOAA collected for Timor-Leste.

Workshop participants navigate maps of Timor-Leste with the coral reef data collected by NOAA.

Through a series of instructional and “hands-on” GIS exercises, participants learned how to create maps of coral reef baseline data, collected by NOAA and our partners, from 2012 to 2014 and utilize the satellite-derived basemaps that NOAA-CREP developed for the nearshore areas around Timor-Leste.

This workshop was made possible in part with funding from the NOAA Fisheries International Activities and Seafood Inspection Program and served as an interim opportunity to share the draft data results that have been prepared by NOAA-CREP through the NOAA-USAID Timor-Leste partnership. The final results for in-country presentation will be coordinated with MAF in early 2016.

Example of the WorldView-2 satellite image and ground-truth data (left) used to derive bathymetry for the near-shore areas around Timor-Leste (right).

Example of the WorldView-2 satellite image and ground-truth data (left) used to derive bathymetry for the near-shore areas around Timor-Leste (right).

Following the workshop, Michael Abbey of the International Activities and Seafood Inspection Program held a half-day meeting for the MAF fisheries managers and participants from the GIS workshop. The goal of the meeting was to discuss how to bridge the gap between fisheries management and GIS in the context of an Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries Management and to explore NOAA’s potential future engagement to support such activities in Timor-Leste.

The NOAA team also participated in a U.S. Embassy Outreach event, “Amérika iha Timor-Leste: Parseria ba Prosperidade,” at Timor Plaza. This event was a day-long exhibition showcasing the relationship between the United States and Timor-Leste. At the event, participants learned about initiatives in the areas of economic growth, defense cooperation, democracy and governance, safety and security, health, education, and inter-country exchange to build a more prosperous Timor-Leste. Visitors also participated in many activities, contests, and quizzes—both live and online—throughout the day. The NOAA booth was one of the most popular stops for many parents and children!


Giant strides forward to improve fisheries management in Indonesia

By Megan Moews-Asher

Let us begin with the “why”…

Biking1.Fish Market KendariAt the request of the U.S. Agency for International Development, the NOAA Fisheries’ Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries Management (EAFM) team has been working with colleagues in Indonesia since 2011 to help improve the country’s fisheries management. During this time, NOAA Fisheries and partners have been striving to find the best ways to communicate “why” Indonesia (and other countries) would want to move toward an EAFM—a more holistic way of managing fisheries that balances the needs (and impacts) of the people with that of the environment through good governance.

Each time we have visited Indonesia, we have seen the “why” firsthand. We have seen it in every man, woman and child. Whether rich or incredibly poor, no matter the religion or background, from local community to national government, we have always been greeted with genuine smiles and a sense of welcome. As an archipelagic nation with a rapidly growing population, Indonesia’s remarkable people rely on their fisheries in so many ways. Seeing those smiles and all of the poverty (yet hope), watching how hard they work to feed their families, and seeing just how much they rely on the fisheries for their food security and livelihoods—that is the “why.”

4.LivelihoodsOf course, there are many other reasons behind the “why,” such as—what about that delicious fish you ate the other night? Chances are, it may very well have come from Indonesia, which is the second largest fisheries nation in terms of production and a growing exporter of fisheries products to the United States. With demands for fisheries products increasing worldwide and our current abilities to meet them unsustainable, this does not only impact Indonesia, but other countries including the U.S. And to give yet another reason, let’s take a brief glimpse underwater. As part of the Coral Triangle, Indonesia has some of the highest biological diversity of marine species in the world. Its amazing diversity is almost magical—enough said. One could go on and on in terms of the “why.”

The problem is, the “why” is being severely impacted, from the individual people and their communities, to fish sizes and abundance, to the complex and diverse habitats that the fish rely on. This is where Indonesia’s Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries (MMAF) has asked for help and where NOAA’s assistance comes in. The Indonesian government is working with NOAA to improve its fisheries management toward improved food security, livelihoods, sustainability, economic gain, and biodiversity conservation through an EAFM. When we first started coming to Indonesia, nationwide fisheries management was severely limited and we were discouraged to even speak the words “ecosystem approach to fisheries management.”



Under the leadership and vision of Pak Gellwyn Jusuf, Director General of Capture Fisheries, Pak Aryo Hanggono, Director of Fisheries Resources at the time (now Senior Advisor to the Minister of Marine Affairs and Fisheries, Ibu Susi Pudjiastuti), his predecessor, Pak Toni Ruchimat, and their dedicated staff led by Ibu Erni Widjajanti, times are changing. With assistance from Indonesia’s EAFM National Working Group and partners, bolstered by NOAA’s technical assistance, Indonesia can now proudly say that they have developed 11 fisheries management plans (RPPs), spanning the entire nation and based largely on an EAFM. They further plan to increase stakeholder engagement and adapt the plans as they continue moving forward with implementation. But it doesn’t stop there! To support implementation and adaptation of the RPPs and future fisheries management needs nationwide, MMAF is now working toward development of Regional Fisheries Commissions, based on the U.S. Fisheries Management Council structure.

Pak Aryo Hanggono, Director of Fisheries Resources.

Pak Aryo Hanggono, Senior Advisor to the Minister of Marine Affairs and Fisheries.

From August 19–24, NOAA Fisheries’ Rusty Brainard, Wesley Patrick, and Megan Moews-Asher met with Pak Aryo Hanggono and staff, the EAFM National Working Group, the Indonesia Marine and Climate Support Project, USAID, and partners to discuss the development of Indonesia’s fisheries management governance structure. Among the examples provided during the workshop, the NOAA team presented the history, development, and lessons learned from the U.S. Fisheries Management Council system, its process and supporting structures. As a result of these discussions, the workshop participants, led by Pak Aryo and Ibu Erni, developed a structure similar to the U.S. Council system, but more applicable to Indonesia, to present to the Director General of Capture Fisheries and in anticipation of obtaining a future Ministerial Decree. The development of four Regional Fisheries Commissions across the nation will be yet another big and exciting step forward in improving fisheries management in Indonesia.

Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries, EAFM National Working Group, and USAID work closely with NOAA Fisheries' Rusty Brainard, Wesley Patrick, and Megan Moews-Asher to draft Regional Fisheries Commission structure based on U.S. Council process.

Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries, EAFM National Working Group, and USAID work closely with NOAA Fisheries’ Rusty Brainard, Wesley Patrick, and Megan Moews-Asher to draft Regional Fisheries Commission structure based on U.S. Council process.

A key element of the Commission structure will be the inclusion of important stakeholders, not only from national and provincial governments (including other directorates and ministries), but also representatives from small and large-scale fisheries, non-governmental organizations, and even traditional leaders. These stakeholders will collaborate on the development of fisheries management plans, decision-making, and co-management for each region. They also plan to include advisory groups and public consultation throughout the process—another important step forward.

We have since learned that Director General Pak Gellwyn “gave high appreciation on regionalization of Indonesia’s fisheries management areas and the design of the proposed commission structure.” Furthermore, led by the spirited and resilient Ibu Erni, a roadmap to begin this process has already been drafted. They have a long road ahead of them, but thanks to the hard work of many dedicated partners, Indonesia is making great strides toward sustainable fisheries management.