The lives of small fishermen are increasingly vulnerable

The results of research in four regions show that fishermen experience complex life vulnerabilities.

JAKARTA, The lives of small-scale fishermen are increasingly experiencing multiple vulnerabilities due to the impact of climate change, disturbances in fishing areas, and minimal access to fuel oil. The increase in the contribution of the fisheries sector to state revenues has not yet been matched by an increase in the welfare of fishermen.

The Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (KKP) reports that the number of fishermen in 2022 will reach 2,401,540 people. The fishing population increased from the previous year, namely 2,359,264 people. According to KKP statistics in 2023, the majority of them (85 percent) are small-scale fishermen.

Academician of the Faculty of Economics and Business at the University of Indonesia, Sartika Djamaluddin, revealed that Indonesia is the second-largest producer of capture fisheries in the world after China in 2020. The growth of the fisheries sector reached 8.2 percent, which is higher than the growth of the gross domestic product (GDP) at 6.58 percent.

The contribution of the fisheries sector to non-tax state revenue (PNBP) is also significant during the Covid-19 pandemic, which is Rp 1.2 trillion in 2022, or an increase of 68 percent compared to 2021. Ironically, the welfare of fishermen is still low.

The research results initiated by Econusa Foundation, the Indonesian Traditional Fisherfolk Union (KNTI), and the Faculty of Economics and Business at the University of Indonesia reveal that fishermen are facing increasingly high livelihood vulnerabilities. Communities in coastal and small island areas, especially fishing communities, are not immune to various ecological disasters and climate issues.

A case study was conducted in South Aceh Regency (Aceh), Pemalang (Central Java), Pangkep (South Sulawesi), and Ambon (Maluku) on 236 respondents, during the period of May-December 2023. Out of the 236 fishermen respondents, 57 people or 24 percent experienced multiple vulnerabilities in living, namely due to disasters/climate change, lack of access to fuel, and disruption of fishing areas.

“The welfare of fishermen is still low, with poverty still prevalent in the lives of small-scale fishermen. Fishermen face high risks due to climate change, obstacles in accessing fuel, and fishing areas,” said Sartika in an online presentation of the research and findings on “Climate Crisis and Vulnerability to the Lives of Fishermen” on Wednesday (June 5, 2024).

Based on a study presented by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) University and Works (2021), the contribution of small-scale fisheries is very significant, among others fulfilling 40 percent of the world’s fisheries needs and providing 113 million jobs for small fishermen, including female workers involved in the fisheries sector.

According to Sartika, climate change that causes changes in the temperature of seawater has triggered fish migration. As a result, catches have decreased and fishing areas have become farther away. Fishermen require greater costs to go to sea. Meanwhile, access to fuel is difficult, especially subsidized fuel.

Disruptions in fishing areas also continue to occur, such as conflicts between fishermen, disturbances from large ships, vulnerability of access to fish resources, and a lack of knowledge about fishing zone zoning.

On the other hand, the adaptive ability of fishermen is still low. Only 5 percent of fishermen understand zoning and weather information. About 70 percent rely on fishing as their main source of income, leaving them without alternative work and adaptive abilities to disruptions at sea. Access to banking and financial financing is also still low.

As many as 60 percent of respondents, who are fishermen, are vulnerable to disruptions in fishing areas, while 77 percent of fishermen are vulnerable to access to fuel, especially subsidized fuel, resulting in the majority using non-subsidized fuel with higher prices.

Sartika added that more than 50 percent of fishers do not have the Marine and Fisheries Business Entity Card (Kusuka), which is the identity of fishers and the access to assistance instruments. The low ownership of Kusuka cards is partly due to fishers not yet feeling the benefits of Kusuka cards.

“Protection and health insurance for fishermen is very low. “This is ironic because there are many risks in their work,” said Sartika.

According to Sartika, the government needs to make breakthroughs in providing protection for small fishermen, including expanding the reach and benefits of Kusuka, providing assistance for poor fishermen, and improving fishing facilities.

Econusa’s Ocean Program Manager, Mida Saragih, stated that fishermen are the economic engine for the national fisheries and support the livelihoods of communities on the coast. Small-scale fisheries are the key to creating jobs, fish production, local economies, and food security. As of 2022, the number of recorded fishing vessels is 453,326 units.

He considers that the country needs to be more supportive towards strengthening small fishermen, such as providing support in production tools, fishing vessels, fisheries infrastructure, and facilities. Support for port infrastructure, such as logistics facilities, electricity, fueling stations for fishermen, and refrigerated warehouses, is needed for coastal and small island fishermen.

The Chairman of the Regional Leadership Council of the Indonesian Traditional Fishermen’s Unity (KNTI) in South Aceh, Jeri Rahmat, stated that there are currently 600 fishermen who have Kusuka cards in the area. However, the fishermen have not yet felt the benefits of the Kusuka card, apart from a recommendation letter to purchase fuel and administrative completeness. “The benefits of Kusuka that the government has promoted have not been seen,” he said.

Fishermen from Karawang released a caught “tembang” fish while fishing in the waters of Jakarta Bay at the Muara Angke Jetty, Jakarta, on Thursday (13/8/2020). They had to search for fish up to Jakarta Bay as the waters in Karawang were contaminated with oil spills.

In addition, downstream issues include dependence on middlemen. The limited availability of refrigerated warehouses causes fish to pile up and the price of fish to drop during the fishing season. In early May 2024, fishermen were forced to discard their catch because the fish could not be accommodated in refrigerated warehouses and collectors were not available.

The Young Expert Fishery Production Manager of the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries, Dicky Gamawan Eko Priambada, admitted that small fishermen still face vulnerabilities, poverty, and lack of access to fuel. The ministry continues to facilitate the development of fueling stations for fishermen managed by fishermen cooperatives in their respective work areas.

On the other hand, the government continues to make efforts to improve aid distribution. Kusuka ownership is beneficial in the direct cash distribution of aid from the Ministry of Social Affairs, as well as the conversion of fuel from gasoline to gas, and insurance for fishermen.

He added that this year is the second year of accelerating Kusuka data collection in districts/cities. The government is targeting an additional 72,500 Kusuka recipients this year in 200 targeted districts/cities.

Source :

Scroll to Top