RI to Boost Maritime Research After Securing UN Ocean Body Seat

July 6, 2017, The Jakarta Post

Having garnered support from its Asia-Pacific peers to represent them in the United Nation’s focal ocean group, Indonesia has pledged to lead by example.

Indonesia was among 40 countries elected to chair the executive council of UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) in a vote held in Paris last week, representing the Asia-Pacific region along with Australia and China.

In the election, Indonesia collected the third-most votes among Asia-Pacific countries behind Australia and China, which a top maritime official said, “shows the region has put their confidence in Indonesia” to lead the efforts to protect the ocean amid numerous challenges such as climate change.

“The result has motivated Indonesia to become more active in global marine activities, especially in strengthening the global network,” Coordinating Maritime Affairs Ministry’s deputy assistant on maritime science Nani Hendiarti told The Jakarta Post in an interview Wednesday.

But numerous tasks await Indonesia, Nani acknowledged, in order to repay the trust of the members of the group, which is the only UN body to specialize in ocean sciences and services.

“We need to strengthen the infrastructure to support marine observation, as the IOC obliges members to share information to develop a marine database to forecast regional and global conditions such as climate change,” Nani said.

The IOC coordinates ocean observation and monitoring through the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS), which aims to develop a unified network to provide information and data on the physical, chemical and biological aspects of the ocean.

Nani said Indonesia still lacks a thorough marine database, pointing to the lack of programs and infrastructure intended to support the activity. For instance, Indonesia only has a few high-resolution bathymetry maps used to measure sea depths. Having high-quality bathymetry maps would help Indonesia conserve its deep sea eco system, such as coral reefs, as they can show which parts of the sea cannot be passed by vessels.

The Coordinating Maritime Affairs Ministry is preparing what Nani said was “a grand design” for maritime-related research, which is expected to be introduced at the 22nd National Technology Day celebration in Makassar, South Sulawesi, on Aug,10.

Nani added that Indonesia’s “active participation” in the UN Ocean Conference in New York last month had probably helped Indonesia secure the votes to chair the IOC’s executive council.

“Many delegations in paris commented positively on Indonesia’s active engagement in the Ocean Conference,” Nani said. In one of the forums at the Ocean Conference, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti promoted Indonesia’s latest move to allow the public dissemination of its vessel monitoring system (VMS), which was praised by Leonardo Di Caprio as a model for combating illegal fishing.

Indonesia requires VMS on all vessels exceeding 30 gross tonnage and 15 meters or more in length, allowing a wider and more accurate monitoring coverage of fishing vessel activities. The data was previously hidden to public.

“We need to realize that the crimes that take place at sea mostly involve fishing vessels and include human trafficking, drug trafficking, illegal fuel transaction and the smuggling of goods and endangered species,” Susi said. Susi also took the chance to address the need to establish a designated body to ensure that “the right oceans” would be protected without being disturbated by any political change or agenda.

While Indonesia garnered praise for its crusade against illegal fishing, the country found itself in a different type of spotlight at the summit for being the second-biggest plastic polluter in the oceans behind China.

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