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Indonesia lobster larvae export ban re-examined

JAKARTA (ANN/THE JAKARTA POST) – Indonesia Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry is making strides toward lifting the export ban on lobster larvae as it works on the formulation of a ministerial decree.

Indonesia’s Director General of Aquaculture at the Ministry TB Haeru Rahayu disclosed to the source on Monday that the draft decree has undergone rigorous scrutiny, having been subjected to three rounds of public consultation.

“The decree will not only include lobster, but also crab [exports],” said Haeru.

Exports of lobster larvae were halted in 2016 to prevent overexploitation.

The ministry attempted to lift the ban in May 2020, but the initiative fizzled out amid a graft case that led to the 2021 conviction of former fisheries minister Edhy Prabowo who was sentenced to five years in prison for accepting bribes in exchange for export licenses.

This time, the ministry said it would be stricter about ensuring that exporters complied with the rules.

“In regulating the investment for lobster larvae aquaculture, there’s a strict procedure that’s aimed at promoting technological exchange, so that the domestic aquaculture sector will advance,” ministry spokesperson Effin Martiana said in a statement published on October 13, reported Mongabay, a non-profit conservation and environmental news platform based in the United States.

The draft decree includes a requirement for exporters buying wild-caught lobster larvae from fishers to ensure that a certain amount of larvae is released from fish farms into the wild to replenish stocks.

A similar requirement was in the regulation in 2020 when the ban was briefly lifted, but according to the Mongabay report, exporters had abused loopholes in that policy by procuring the larvae for release from fishers instead of farms.

Effin said the ministry would closely monitor both the harvesting and exporting of lobster larvae to ensure the marine commodity’s sustainability, and that it would prioritize the development of the country’s fish farming industry.

However, experts argue that this policy will likely undermine rather than strengthen the domestic aquaculture industry, as well as have a detrimental impact on the wild population.

“Exports and aquaculture are different things,” Yonvitner, head of the Center for Coastal and Marine Resources Studies at IPB University, was quoted as saying by Mongabay on Friday.

He said allowing exports to resume would result in overharvesting due to high prices driven by strong demand.

Meanwhile, proponents of resuming exports argue that the ban resulted only in missed opportunities, as lobster larvae had low individual survival rates in the wild.

They also say the ban had been ineffective as a deterrent for smuggling lobster larvae, reported Mongabay.

A major obstacle to viable lobster aquaculture in Indonesia is the high mortality rate of over 50 per cent during the nursery stage.

Lobsters are among Indonesia’s top fishery commodities, and illegal exports of larvae and young lobsters cost the country IDR900 billion (USD56.4 million) in lost revenue in 2019, according to the Financial Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (PPATK).

A pouch of lobster larvae seized from smugglers are pictured in this undated handout photo provided by the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry. PHOTO: ANN/THE JAKARTA POST SOURCE