The Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry will further tighten its licensing regulations and introduce a new framework after a six-month moratorium on the issuance of licenses for fishing vessels over 30 gross tons (GT) comes to an end at the end of April next year.
The measure is necessary to stem the tide of illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing practices, which has resulted in depleted fish stocks around the country, according to ministry officials.
The ministry's director general of fishing operations, Gellwyn Yusuf, said on Friday that his office should implement strict policies like the moratorium as most of the country's fisheries resources had been depleted due to illegal fishing.
The main indicator for this over-fishing, Gellwyn said, was a report from the directorate general for fisheries processing and marketing (P2HP), stating that the country's 627 fisheries processing units (UPI) were experiencing a vast shortage of fish supplies as raw materials.
'Why the moratorium? We want to reduce our losses from illegal fishing. But it isn't just about foreign ships trespassing in our waters and taking their catches back overseas,' he told reporters during a press conference in Central Jakarta, on Friday.
President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo said the country had lost around
Rp 300 trillion annually from illegal fishing and that there were 5,400 illegal ships operating in Indonesian waters because of a lack of firm action by the government.
Gellwyn said the moratorium provided leeway for the ministry to audit the fishing licenses of 1,132 large fishing vessels, evaluating such aspects as the track record of their commercial operators and the integrity of legal documents.
The authorities will also be able to determine whether the ships routinely landed their catches at local ports or if they were involved in open-sea transshipments.
'We need to have the political will to implement this policy. President Jokowi insisted on no more tolerance; we have to assert the country's sovereignty,' he said.
Recent ministry data shows that 53 fishing licenses have been left to expire in the five months of the moratorium's implementation, from a total of 425 licenses that will undergo review. The moratorium will be lifted on April 30, 2015.
Toni Ruchimat, the ministry's director for fish resources, revealed the majority of the country's fishing zones had experienced over-fishing since 2011, showing a map to outline the situation.
The fishing zones color coded with green, yellow and red indicated which areas had abundant fish supplies, which were at a sustainable limit, and which were completely over-fished, respectively.
According to Toni, out of the country's 11 fishing zones, the Malacca Strait, Java Sea and Arafura Sea were the worst affected.
'The red zones mean more than 80 percent of fish stock has been depleted, which is the limit for sustainable fishing. The green areas, on the other hand, indicate that fishing operations are still allowed due to the abundance of supply,' Toni explained.
'If we continue to catch in the yellow and red areas, that's just the same as depleting our reserves.'
To this end, Toni said the ministry would introduce a quota-based zoning system that would regulate the quota in each area.
The ministry will also set stricter rules regarding fishing licenses, such as a mandatory requirement for foreign-made vessels to present official bills of sale and deletion documents, as well as obliging vessel groups with an accumulated tonnage of 2,000 GT to have their own fisheries processing units.