Trends in IUU Fishing in the Shared Arafura and Timor Seas

The 'semi-enclosed' Arafura and Timor Seas (ATS), particularly the Arafura Sea, is a recognised global hotspot for illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU fishing). IUU fishing remains a major trans-boundary threat to the fisheries, food security and globally significant biodiversity in the ATS, particularly for impoverished and food-insecure coastal communities in Indonesia and Timor-Leste. In the ATS, the annual economic impact of IUU fishing has been recently estimated at >US$1.2B per year for Indonesia and US$214M for Timor-Leste.

In this seminar, we examine the history, status and current trends in IUU fishing activity and management within the ATS, particularly in the waters of the Australian Exclusive Economic Zone (AEEZ) and the Indonesian Exclusive Economic Zone (IEEZ). Including recent sharp increases in industrial foreign-flagged trawl fishing (illegal, legal) and Indonesian small-scale fisheries (particularly those targeting shark) in the Arafura Sea and also, increases in foreign fishing vessels FFVs (legal, illegal) sightings in northern Australian waters. While Indonesia (with the support of Australia) has made significant progress in tackling IUU in the Arafura Sea (particularly since 2015, under Minister Susi Pudjiastuti) - there have been major increases in IUU fishing in the Timor Sea, particularly in the waters of Timor-Leste. Including large-scale, industrial foreign trawling operations, which have shifted their Arafura Sea operations to Timor-Leste, following Indonesian bans for illegal fishing.

IUU and overfishing in the ATS is linked to a broader pattern of poverty and overfishing of coastal fisheries in the Asia-Pacific, and particularly the southward expansion of IUU foreign trawl fisheries. Strengthening of regional fisheries management in the ATS, particularly under the Regional Plan of Action to Promote Responsible Fishing Practices Including Combating IUU (RPOA-IUU) is urgently required to ensure IUU fishing is tackled, rather than displaced in the ATS - particularly to Timor-Leste, which currently has the least capacity for IUU regulation, enforcement and operational management. Controlling overfishing and IUU fishing activity in the ATS urgently requires a regional, multi-sectoral response, supporting fishing capacity reduction, framed within the context of regional food security and rural economic development.

Listen to seminar recording.

About the speaker

Dr. Karen Edyvane (PhD, UAdel) is a Marine Scientist with extensive experience (>30 years) in coastal science, planning and management - particularly Marine Protected Areas, coastal-marine habitats, marine environmental policy, monitoring and assessment, and integrated coastal management. Throughout her career she has held a wide range of senior government, statutory, research and academic teaching positions, at the State, national and international level (particularly in South Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory). Since her move to Darwin in 2006, her research interests have primarily focused on northern Australia and the Arafura and Timor Seas region - with a focus on coastal sustainability, ecosystem management, livelihood development and environmental governance.

She currently works as an international development consultant and maintains a strong interest in academic research, teaching and postgraduate supervision. She is currently a Visiting Professor at the National University of Timor-Leste, a University Professorial Fellow with Charles Darwin University and an Honorary Research Fellow with the Australian National University. Her research has been recognised through several major awards throughout her career including the `South Australian Unsung Hero of South Australian Science' (1996) and the `South Australian Woman in Science Award' (1998) and the Bulletin's `Smart 100' award in 2003 (as one of Australia's top 10 environmentalists).