Indonesian navy sinks illegal fishing boats

By Annie Harrison-Dunn

- Last updated on GMT

Destroyed illicit boats to become "houses for the fishes" in Indonesian waters
Destroyed illicit boats to become "houses for the fishes" in Indonesian waters

Related tags Indonesia

The new Indonesian government has blown up around 30 boats fishing illegally to send a strong message on sustainability, Indonesia’s director general for Fisheries Product Processing and Marketing at the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries (MMAF) has said.

Although the right to destroy vessels fishing illegally in its waters has existed since 1982, this law had never been enforced until the new government assumed office last October.

Other local news outlets reported the number of ships destroyed had reached 41.

Speaking in Java last week, Saut Hutagalung told us it sent a clear message that illegal fishing - which could mean without a permit or out of season - would no longer be tolerated.

The aim was not to continue this policy long term but make an example of the boats until everybody fell in line.

He said often Indonesian crew were hired as a guise on the foreign vessels. 

The ministry was also working to disincentivise illegal fishing by making sure restaurants and shops did not buy illicit catches.

Sleeping with the fishes

Asked if exploded boats might be considered pollution in the sea, another ministry official told us oil, petrol and machinery were removed before the navy took the empty boats far away from the shore.

What remained of the boats would be "houses for the fishes"​, he said.

He said the new minister was very "tough".

Sustainable crackdown

Hutagalung said a warning had been sent to the embassies of neighbouring countries including China, Thailand and Vietnam before it started implementing the law, requesting they inform businesses of the new policy. He said diplomatic relations had not been hampered as this fair warning had been sent ahead of time.

Local media reports suggested the first Chinese boat had been blown up last week.

Boats suspected of illegal activity were first taken to court where a speedy decision was made.

The crackdown came as Indonesia prepared for its fourth annual International Coastal Tuna Business Forum (ICTBF) in Bali this month, with the likes of Marks & Spencer from the UK and Walmart from the US set to attend.

In context

The new government led by Joko Widodo has been seen as increasingly strict on law enforcement in a number of areas - perhaps most notably for narcotics, which saw six people of mixed nationality in January and another eight in April executed for drug smuggling offences. This caused international criticism and saw some of the embassies withdraw from the country.

Domestically he is portrayed as a shift away from the corruption of past leadership, towards clean and transparent politics. 

Related topics Policy Industry growth Seafood

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