US, Indonesia step up collaboration to tackle illegal fishing
The Jakarta Post
The United States is taking steps to support Indonesia to improve its law enforcement, particularly to tackle illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.
In its efforts, the US Department of Justice will be involved in providing training for prosecutors and judges, US Ambassador to Indonesia Robert Blake said on Wednesday when speaking to reporters at the American cultural center, @America.
"Many of these illegal activities are linked one way or another. [We] really strongly believe that as we make progress to stop illegal fishing, we will also make progress on related illegal activities," Blake said.
According to Blake, the two countries are also discussing initiating a new program to build cooperation between Interpol and Indonesia to assist in law enforcement in the fishery.
These efforts aim to not only confront illegal fishing but also to reduce related illegal activities like trafficking in persons and illegal wildlife products, illegal logging and even drugs, says Blake, because these fishing boats are often used for many of those activities as well.
Mas Achmad Santosa, head of the IUU fishing prevention task force, said there is still a lot that needs to be improved within the country's criminal justice system.
"The weakness in our system lies in the ability to detect, respond and punish," Mas Achmad said.
There needs to be an overhaul of the criminal justice system in dealing with fishery crimes, he said, adding that the integrity of the bureaucracy and justice system is vulnerable.
According to data released by the World Bank in 2015, fishery crimes cost the country US$20 million in economic losses and over-fishing threatened about 65 percent of Indonesia's coral reefs.
On this issue, the US government, through is development agency, also launched a $33 million five-year sustainable fishery program that will focus on protecting biodiversity in Indonesia's coral triangle area.
The Indonesian government's efforts have produced results. From Oct. 2014 until Dec. 2015 the government sank 117 boats and revoked the business permits of 15 companies.
There will be continued efforts this year with Rp 500 million assigned to the task force.
The series of US government-led initiatives is being implemented as part of a growing maritime collaboration between both nations as a result of President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's visit to Washington in October of last year.
The signing of a memorandum of understanding on maritime cooperation by both nations sought to expand cooperation in marine areas to deepen engagement in five different sectors, namely maritime security, maritime economy, marine resources and fisheries conservation and management, maritime safety and navigation and marine science and technology. (bbn)(+)
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