Academic journal article Contemporary Southeast Asia

The Role of Tourism in Addressing Illegal Fishing: The Case of a Dive Operator in Indonesia

Academic journal article Contemporary Southeast Asia

The Role of Tourism in Addressing Illegal Fishing: The Case of a Dive Operator in Indonesia

Article excerpt

Over the last decade, the crisis in global fisheries has become a prominent environmental concern. The immense global demand for marine products has driven fish stocks in some parts of the world to complete depletion, (1) and has left many subsistence fishing communities in the developing world with diminishing food sources. (2) The maritime environment of Southeast Asia hosts some of the world's most fish-abundant waters, (3) but illegal fishing and overfishing are becoming ever more of a concern in the region, particularly because national economies depend heavily on marine resources. (4) The sheer vastness of territorial waters and exclusive economic zones (EEZs), often coupled with a lack of capacity to enforce coastal states' sovereign economic rights, means that effectively controlling fishing activities remains a critical challenge for state agencies.

This article focuses on the involvement of a new for-profit actor--a dive operator--in combating illegal fishing in Raja Ampat, eastern Indonesia. The case study illustrates how a private dive tourism operator has taken on a significant role in addressing illegal fishing practices, and in doing so has joined existing conservation governance actors including civil society groups, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the state. Examining the role of the dive operator provides insights into alternative approaches to addressing contemporary environmental security threats such as illegal fishing, and contributes to the debate on emerging (hybrid) forms of maritime security governance, or more precisely the role of private actors in providing security. This study follows in the wake of broader security studies that note the increasing involvement of, for example, Private Military and Security Companies (PMSCs) in military training and the protection of assets around the world, particularly in conflict zones. These studies have raised a number of concerns regarding the nature of services provided by private actors, mostly centred on their modus operandi, the lack of transparency and the dearth of public oversight of PMSC operations. (5) Negative reporting concerning the work conducted by a number of PMSCs have further fuelled criticism concerning their role in security provision. The question of whether or not the protection of national security and the provision of military services should remain the domain of governments, rather than the profit motivated private sector, remains a key point of contention. (6)

The author conducted the fieldwork for this article during two visits to eastern Indonesia between 2010 and 2011. The first period focused on ascertaining the perspectives of the local community on dive tourism development and their responses to more recent initiatives against illegal fishing. By residing in two communities during the fieldwork, the author was able to gain through interviews perspectives from community leaders, fishing groups, elders and local groups involved in tourism ventures. During the second visit in 2011, the author focused on the role of the dive operator, the state and other actors involved specifically in the illegal fishing policy arena. Secondary resources in the form of NGO and government reports, and on-going correspondence with informants, further informed the research at later stages following fieldwork in 2010 and 2011.

The first part of this paper places environmental stability and security within the larger framework of maritime security. The case study is presented in the second part, which introduces the dive operator and discusses his efforts to combat illegal fishing. It also provides an overview of the other state and non-state actors involved in maritime security and marine conservation governance active in the area, namely the district government, an international conservation NGO and local community groups. The discussion that follows explores the relationships that the dive operator maintains with each of the three actors. …

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