Indonesia sinks 27 foreign boats to stop illegal fishing

Indonesia Navy personnel inspect the wrackage of foreign fishing vessels after blowing it up at Batam Sea, Indonesia on Feb 22, 2016.
Indonesia Navy personnel inspect the wrackage of foreign fishing vessels after blowing it up at Batam Sea, Indonesia on Feb 22, 2016. PHOTO: EPA

JAKARTA (AFP) - Indonesia sank 27 impounded foreign boats on Monday (Feb 22), a minister said, as the world's largest archipelago nation stepped up a campaign against illegal fishing in its waters.

The empty vessels from the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Myanmar were blown up or scuttled at five separate locations across the country, said Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti.

The boats had been all caught fishing illegally in the archipelago of more than 17,000 islands. Four Indonesian boats were also sunk after they were caught fishing without proper documentation.

"The government is taking stronger and firmer action to enforce regulations to keep our waters safe," Pudjiastuti, a key figure in the campaign against illegal fishing, told journalists.

Indonesia has sunk foreign boats on several occasions since the government launched the drive to combat illegal fishing, with President Joko Widodo claiming the practice costs the country's economy billions of dollars annually.

Last October, Marine Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti said that she had ordered the sinking of 106 foreign boats that were fishing illegally in Indonesian waters, reported the Jakarta Post.

Ms Susi said then that the sinking of the illegal boats is proof that the government is serious about eradicating illegal fishing and boosting the country's sea security.

However, the campaign has caused tensions with other countries in the region. China last year expressed concern after a Chinese boat was blown up.