The Jakarta Post
Coinciding with the 107th commemoration of National Awakening Day, the government has sunk 41 foreign-built ships in concert across the archipelago.
The round of ship-sinking on Wednesday included the 300 gross-ton (GT) Chinese-built Gui Xei Yu 12661, which was taken into custody on June 20, 2009, for fishing in Indonesia's Exclusive Economic Zone (ZEE) in the South China Sea without the required legal documents.
The sinking of the Chinese boat is the first since President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo declared a full-fledge war against foreign poachers in December.
Since then, the government has sunk dozens foreign boats from Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea and the Philippines, igniting a regional diplomatic uproar.
Aside from China, the government also sunk on Wednesday five boats from Vietnam, two from Thailand and 11 from the Philippines.
All the sunken ships were found guilty of practicing illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing.
Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti said local courts had agreed to the government's action following final and binding verdicts in the shipowners' trials.
'At the request of the President, today we carried out the punishment for 41 foreign-built fishing vessels,' Susi said in her speech on Wednesday in an event to commemorate National Awakening Day.
According to Susi, her ministry has sunk six vessels off the coast of Pontianak, West Kalimantan, and another 11 in the Bitung territorial waters in North Sulawesi. One ship was sunken in the Belawan Sea, North Sumatra and another in Aceh territory.
The remaining boats were sunk by the Navy.
In each region, the simultaneous ship-sinking was attended by representatives from the local administration, legislative council and district court.
Since taking office on Oct. 20, the Jokowi administration has sunk a number of foreign ships to discourage the practice of illegal poaching.
Susi claimed that the government's course of action was not merely a show of power, but rather a token of commitment to protecting the country's vast natural resources.
'We are serious about protecting our marine resources for the welfare of our people, our fishermen and other maritime stakeholders. We aren't trying to feign blind courage, we are upholding our sovereignty,' she said.
'Without the continued fight against illegal fishing, we won't be able to improve the welfare of our fishermen.'
Navy spokesperson Cdre. Manahan Simorangkir said that there might be more opportunities to sink more ships, with at least four more vessels going through court proceedings.
Susi said that the government was too lenient in dealing with illegal fishing. She said that it was considering sinking vessels on the spot, without the judicial process.
'Based on the Fisheries Law, the vessels can be sunk without the judicial process. It can be done by merely asking for a permit from the court,' she said.
According to the Batam Maritime and Fisheries Monitoring Task Force (PSDKP), there were still dozens more detained vessels waiting to be sunk pending court verdicts. (alm)
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