03/23/2019, 09.00
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As Indonesia claims top fishing spot, Indonesian tuna conquers sushi

Indonesia’s largest market is the United States, which in 2018 consumed almost half of its catch. Since 2014, tuna exports to the US have increased by 130 per cent. About 3.3 million people work in the industry. Transparency and a modern processing have made the country a point of reference.

Jakarta (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Indonesia is the world’s largest producer of tuna, with an annual catch worth an estimated US billion.

Roughly one in six tuna caught worldwide over the past three years came from Indonesia, which accounted for 16 per cent of world tuna production last year, Indonesian Fisheries authorities report.

The United States is the country’s largest market consuming nearly half of its tuna catch last year, mostly as frozen whole fish or fillets. Indonesia’s tuna exports to the US have soared 130 per cent since 2014.

Japan, which introduced sushi to the world, imported nearly a quarter of Indonesia’s tuna last year. The rest went mainly to Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore and South Korea.

For some years, Indonesian authorities have been working at making the industry more transparent to reassure its customers about its supply chains.

With an estimated 3.3 million people employed in the sector, the government has had to fight perceptions of poor labour practices, human trafficking, and rampant illegal fishing in the western Pacific.

Under Minister of Marine Affairs and Fisheries Susi Pudjiastuti, Indonesia was the first fishing nation to make public real-time data on the location of all vessels in its waters.

Introducing that system made it a global leader in terms of transparency. Under President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's administration, hundreds of foreign fishing boats caught fishing illegally in Indonesian waters have been sunk, often by theatrical explosions.

The country has also developed a modern and efficient processing industry to cope with the volume of fish that is caught.

Indonesian fishing vessels have long used large nets capable of lifting entire schools of tuna from the ocean. By this method, Indonesia catches about as many fish as top tuna producers Japan and Taiwan.

Fishing by purse seine – a large wall of netting – risks overfishing however, leaving insufficient fish to repopulate a given area.

In recent years, Indonesia has emerged as second only to Japan in pole and handline fishing, where fish are caught one by one, eliminating the risk of hauling in an unintended catch.

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