Jokowi reiterates Indonesia's tough stance against illegal fishing by foreigners

JAKARTA (Jakarta Post/Asia News Network) - President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has reiterated his tough stance against illegal foreign fishing, reminding people that the tight control of the country's territorial waters holds the key to the country's future.

Jokowi made the statement during the commemoration on Monday of the Nusantara Day, or the Archipelago Day, which was based on the Djuanda Declaration of Dec. 13, 1957, in Kotabaru, South Kalimantan. The declaration marked the beginning of Indonesia being acknowledged as an archipelagic state.

At the event, Jokowi was accompanied by several top officials including Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti, Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister Indroyono Susilo and Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Tedjo Edhy Purdijatno.

In his speech, Jokowi said he had been given flak for his tough stance on illegal fishing. He said that many leaders of neighboring countries called him prior to a public burning of three Vietnamese vessels captured for fishing illegally in the country's waters in early December.

"(They asked) 'Pak Jokowi, why use dynamite to sink ships?' I answered that this was only the first warning. There would be another message and the second warning ...Just wait," he said as quoted by setkab.go.id.

Indonesia has also captured two boats operated by Thais fishing in Anambas waters less than a week after sinking three Vietnamese vessels.

The 2009 Fishery Law allows fishery monitoring officers or investigators, including those under the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry, the military and the police, to carry out specific actions such as burning or sinking foreign vessels caught fishing illegally in Indonesian waters.

Although officials have said the stern measures would not hamper the diplomatic ties between other countries, many were concerned about the potential diplomatic impacts from such a move.

Jokowi also said on Monday that the government would continue to strengthen its maritime sovereignty in line with its declaration of the concept of the world maritime axis.

"This is our momentum to change our view on maritime issues. The glory of Nusantara [our archipelago] in the past, whether it was during the era of Sriwijaya or Majapahit kingdoms, started from the sea. We have to believe that our future lies with the sea," Jokowi said.

Further in his speech, Jokowi also ordered the government to provide more sea patrol boats, after reports from the Navy which said that it could only operate 15 of its 70 sea patrol vessels daily due to limited fuel supply.

The President also reminded Susi of her responsibility to help and support Indonesian fishermen.

In her response to Jokowi's speech, Susi pledged that she would help local fishermen against the onslaught of illegal foreign fishermen.

"We have to make a commitment to using the sea to help improve the welfare of the Indonesian people and a strong commitment to enforce our sovereignty in our waters," Susi said as quoted by Antara.

University of Indonesia international law expert Hikmahanto Juwana said that Indonesia must be persistent in taking drastic measures to deter illegal foreign fishing.

"The messages sent by Jokowi and Susi were already strong. Yet, in order to deter illegal foreign fishing, the government must impose the measures consistently and indiscriminately regardless of the fishermen's countries of origins," he said.