The Jakarta Post
Indonesia is set to sink on Saturday three foreign vessels captured for fishing illegally in the country's waters, in a move to deter illegal, unregulated and unreported ( IUU ) fishing by foreign ships, Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Tedjo Edhy Purdijatno said on Thursday.
'We have reported to the President [about the sinking], which will be carried out on Saturday. We will sink several vessels to show stern government action against illegal [fishing],' Tedjo said after the meeting with President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo at the Presidential Office.
The three foreign ships will be sunk in waters near Matak Island in Anambas Regency, Riau.
Tedjo said the drastic measure would not hamper Indonesia's ties with other countries since it was in line with prevailing law.
Jokowi has repeatedly said the country has lost around Rp 300 trillion annually from illegal fishing and that there are currently 5,400 illegal ships operating in Indonesian waters because of a lack of firm action by the government.
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.
Meanwhile, the ministry is preparing to take its own action to combat IUU fishing.
Five fishing vessels from Thailand have been held since Nov. 2 at Pontianak Port in West Kalimantan for allegedly fishing in Indonesian waters illegally.
As of November, the ministry had captured one fishing vessel from Vietnam, which was still being investigated in Pontianak, with 11 crew members. It also captured 163 ships measuring between 10-15 gross tonnage in Berau, East Kalimantan.
The ministry's director general for marine resources supervision, Asep Burhanudin, said all five foreign ships ' all measuring over 100 gross tonnage ' would be sunk because they were in possession of forged documents.
'I already have instructions to sink the vessels, since we have enough evidence. The ships had falsified documents; they didn't show up in our registry,' Asep told reporters on Thursday.
In addition to the forged documents, proof of violations included the fact that all 61 crew members were foreign nationals from Thailand and that the ships were found trespassing in fishing grounds off Natuna Islands near Indonesia's northern maritime border, Asep explained.
With an average load of 500 to 700 tons per vessel, Asep said the ministry had seized around 3 tons of fish of various kinds and sizes, including snapper, mackerel and tuna.
He said the vessels, modified to look like Indonesian ships, were also suspected of open-sea transshipment.
The director general said that the ministry would look into alternatives to sinking such ships, including auctioning the seized vessels and the illegal catches.
'For the time being, we may sink all the ships to deter wrongdoers,' Asep said.
According to him, the ministry sank 33 of 38 foreign vessels caught trespassing in the country's territorial waters between 2007 and 2012, all of which were found to have carried out illegal fishing. The majority of offenders came from Vietnam with 32 ships, and all were caught off the Natuna Islands.