The Jakarta Post
Responding to rampant illegal fishing in the country's territorial waters, President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo has ordered drastic measures be taken against foreign ships stealing fish from Indonesia's seas, including sinking them on the spot.
In a speech delivered to participants of the National Resilience Institute's (Lemhannas) annual training, President Jokowi said the drastic measures were justified given that the country had lost around Rp 300 trillion (US$24.7 billion) annually from illegal fishing and that firm action was necessary to stem further losses.
'There is no need to arrest them [the illegal fishing boats]; just sink them,' Jokowi said, to applause from an audience that packed a meeting hall in the Presidential Palace.
There are currently 5,400 illegal ships operating in Indonesian waters and taking serious action against some of them could be enough to create a deterrent effect, he said.
'Sink 10 to 20 [ships]. It would make them [the illegal fishermen] think. But remember to rescue the onboard crew first,' Jokowi said.
To implement the plan, Jokowi said he would ask the relevant officials, including Indonesian Military commander Gen. Moeldoko, Navy chief of staff Adm. Marsetio and Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti, to take necessary steps.
Following his inauguration as the country's seventh president last month, Jokowi has introduced his signature maritime-axis doctrine that is to be built on five main pillars that include issues related to economics, security and development.
For instance, according to the doctrine, Indonesia will promote so-called maritime diplomacy to jointly eliminate sources of conflict at sea, such as illegal fishing, violations of sovereignty, territorial disputes, piracy and marine pollution.
Indonesia is also planning to develop its maritime defense forces to maintain maritime sovereignty and wealth and support international efforts to maintain the safety of shipping and maritime security.
During a Cabinet meeting on Monday, Susi had reported to Jokowi that her ministry recently managed to confiscate four ships used to carry out illegal fishing operations in waters north of Kalimantan.
Despite having vast territorial waters, Indonesia has been struggling with declining fish catches, leaving most of the country's fishermen to live in poverty ' a situation Jokowi described as 'ridiculous'.
'In my recent visit to Southeast Sulawesi, I found some cold storage facilities that were no longer in operation since there was insufficient supply of fish. That was ridiculous,' he said.
Adm. Marsetio had earlier said the Navy actually had between 60 and 70 ships available for sea patrol but could only operate up to 15 of them daily because of a limited fuel supply.
'We need 5.6 million kiloliters [of fuel] per year but [the government] has only committed to providing 13 percent of it,' he said on Monday.
Susi had earlier complained that the Indonesian Military (TNI) had not done a good job in protecting the country's territorial waters.
Moeldoko had brushed off the criticism saying that his personnel were faced with logistical problems in running their operations.
'We have 64 ships ready for operation but without enough fuel, we will face problems,' Moeldoko said.