Managing the Discourse of Resource Management: The Case of Sasi from 'Southeast' Maluku, Indonesia

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In 1994, the Government of Indonesia (GOI) commenced its second 25 year, long-term development plan and its sixth five year development plan (known as Repelita VI). In the current developmental cycle, notwithstanding rapid industrialisation and increasing urbanisation, economic growth is still dependent upon the exploitation of natural resources. In this respect, fisheries has been targeted as a major contributor to the pursuit of national 'growth with stability' (World Bank 1994).

Indonesia's fisheries constitute a significant sector of the national economy. At least 5% of the total GDP is derived from the exploitation of marine resources. Current marine landings, valued at US$2.0 billion, are in the order of 2.37 million metric tons, with a potential maximum sustainable yield in the vicinity of 6.7-7.7 million metric tons. Nationally, fish and fish products comprise 60% of annual protein consumption (World Bank 1994). The significance of these statistics, however, is tempered by the paucity of information on the so-called 'outer islands' of Indonesia and on a variety of different fisheries sectors, such as commercial mollusc species. There are strong indications that Indonesia is reaching crisis point in its fisheries much faster than the statistics suggest (World Bank 1994).

Indonesia's marine resources and ecosystems are not only threatened by over exploitation, but are also being damaged by pollution, population pressure, and the effects of environmental degradation of adjoining land areas. Responding to this situation, the Government of Indonesia has 'identified 2.6 million ha. of marine protected areas' (or 30 marine reserves) and plans to designate a further 28 million ha. (that is, 200 additional marine reserves) by the year 2000 (Kelleher et al 1995)(1). While these initiatives and targets are environmentally commendable, in reality they represent little more than legal decrees and 'paper parks'. As White observed some thirteen years ago, of the seventy nine marine reserves designated by the GOI at that time, only 13 of these 'had some form of field management' (cited in White et al 1994:13) while none of them, in White's terms, could be said to be managed effectively.

Notwithstanding the absence of management plans for existing and proposed marine reserves(2), one of the key problems identified with these 'paper parks' has been the lack of community involvement in both the establishment and management of these protected areas. This omission is underscored by the fact that the customary marine fights and interests of individuals and groups are not legally recognised by the Basic Fisheries Act (Undang Undang No. 9/85) or any of the other Acts which delineate State control over marine resources and areas(3). As such, all waters within the Indonesian archipelago are constitutionally vested in the State (Article 33 of the Constitution), and all fishery resources are managed through the Jakarta-based office of the Directorate General of Fisheries and its hopelessly under-staffed and under-resourced subsidiary offices at the provincial and regional levels. The effect of this management regime is a de facto, open-access system with limited enforcement of fisheries regulations (Bailey & Zerner 1991 & 1992; Zerner 1994a & 1994b; Ruddle 1994).

Legal insecurity of title and the exclusion of local people in protected area management strategies is certainly not a recent phenomenon, nor is it confined to Indonesia, or unique to marine areas and resources. The histories of most, if not all, colonial regimes also represent varied histories of indigenous dispossession and marginalisation. In the post-colonial context, notwithstanding the concomitant transformation of former colonies to independent states, and former subjects to citizens, the process of dispossession and dislocation continues in the form of transmigration, resource development, and, strange as it may sound to some, environmental protection. …