Jokowi govt destroys 317 boats fishing illegally

The Indonesian authorities last Saturday destroying several foreign vessels confiscated from poachers. Indonesia suffers annual losses of more than $28 billion from poaching and other illegal activities in its waters.
The Indonesian authorities last Saturday destroying several foreign vessels confiscated from poachers. Indonesia suffers annual losses of more than $28 billion from poaching and other illegal activities in its waters.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Vessels blown up and sunk as Indonesia steps up action to safeguard its maritime resources

Indonesia has destroyed 317 fishing boats confiscated from poachers, since President Joko Widodo took office in October 2014.

Of these, 81 were blown up and sunk by the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries last Saturday, to signal that the government is not letting up on its fight against illegal fishing in its territorial waters.

Most of the fishing boats were from Vietnam (142), followed by the Philippines (76), Malaysia (49), and as far as Belize in Central America. One was from China.

Most of the boats were caught by a special task force set up by the ministry, known as Satgas 115.

Last Saturday's sinking was done simultaneously at 12 locations across the country, and supervised by the Indonesian military and police.

Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti, who observed the sinking of the boats from Ambon, capital of Maluku province, called it a victory for Indonesia's war on poachers.

"There was a time when thousands of foreign vessels came freely to steal our fish, but now they will know - Indonesia will overcome this crime," she said last Saturday.

Mr Joko had said last year that Indonesia suffers annual losses of more than US$20 billion (S$28 billion) from poaching and illegal transhipment activities in its vast territorial waters. The transhipment activities refer to how fishermen would unload their catch at sea onto foreign vessels, which often bypass local ports and port controls by taking the fish elsewhere.

Ms Susi, who was appointed by Mr Joko to the fisheries ministry, has been the main driver behind his plan to revive the shipbuilding and fisheries industries so as to re-establish Indonesia as a maritime power.

To achieve its goal, Indonesia has been trying to maximise the potential of the sector through, among other things, modernising industry practices, clamping down on poachers as well as abolishing illegal transhipment at sea.

In recent years, the country has ramped up enforcement, such as by enhancing its maritime surveillance capabilities.

Last Thursday, Indonesia's Navy launched two new fast patrol boats - a day after its Air Force announced plans to strengthen its aerial reconnaissance and surveillance capabilities by expanding its fleet of spy planes.

Experts have said the increased security in Indonesia's waters against illegal fishing, smuggling and other border incursions, comes amid tensions in the region fuelled by Beijing's overlapping claims in the South China Sea.

China claims almost all of the sea lane, while Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have overlapping claims.

Jakarta is not a party to the disputes but became concerned after Beijing declared in March last year that the waters around the Natunas, which lie within Indonesia's exclusive economic zone, are part of its "traditional fishing grounds".

In what appeared to many as a veiled response to Beijing's claim, Mr Joko boarded a warship in June last year for a visit to the waters off the Natuna Islands.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 03, 2017, with the headline 'Jokowi govt destroys 317 boats fishing illegally'. Print Edition | Subscribe