The Jakarta Post
The government has stepped up its maritime law enforcement by preparing a presidential decree that will lay the groundwork for the establishment of a new task force to combat illegal fishing, according to a government official.
Mas Achmad Santosa, head of the task force for the prevention and eradication of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, said that a presidential decree (Perpres) was currently in the works to establish a new task force with the authority to take action on illegal poachers and other perpetrators of related offenses caught in Indonesia's territorial waters.
Achmad said the new 'combat' task force would answer to President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo himself, a position that would make it different from the existing ministerial task force that he currently leads.
'The task force that I lead will continue to assist the maritime affairs and fisheries minister in monitoring, evaluating and improving on the current [maritime and fisheries] system,' Achmad told The Jakarta Post.
'On the other hand, the presidential task force will focus on eradicating and combating illegal fishing.'
Achmad said the new task force would combine all law enforcers at the national level to 'deal with illegal fishing on site'.
He said the new task force would be crucial in having a deterrent effect on poachers, as there were still many reports of foreign fishing vessels entering Indonesian territorial waters and the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) to fish illegally.
The task force for the prevention and eradication of IUU fishing, first commissioned at the end of last year to support the temporary fishing license ban, will continue to oversee law enforcement initiatives until October this year, to ensure that recommendations from the analysis and evaluation of current foreign-built fishing vessels are duly implemented.
According to Ahmad, the presidential decree to officiate the new task force is currently being reviewed at the office of the Cabinet Secretary.
Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti had hinted at the new decree a number of times in the past, most recently when answering questions regarding her ship-sinking policy during the Indonesia Strategic Partnership Meeting last week in Jakarta.
In reply to queries from foreign envoys, Susi apologized for the slow response her ministry had been accused of, arguing that a lack of coordination between relevant institutions like the Navy and the National Police had contributed to a staggered flow of information to representatives of countries whose vessels were involved in illegal fishing practices.
She said the new presidential decree on the anti-illegal fishing task force would allow her to glean intelligence from the Navy directly, instead of relying on secondhand information provided to fisheries courts or foreign embassies.
'From the Navy we still have to get information [ourselves] because they are not obliged to report to me. But [once the presidential decree is] signed next week, then it will be different,' Susi said. 'At the moment it's still independently done.'
Meanwhile, maritime and fisheries expert Yonvitner from the Bogor Institute of Agriculture (IPB) said that the move to establish another task force for illegal fishing would only create redundancy.
Yonvitner said the new agency would further complicate the coordination of existing institutions like the Maritime Security Board (Bakamla), the Navy, the water police and the Maritime Council, as well as the many fisheries courts and prosecution offices in the country.
'We need only to optimize the functions of existing institutions, so they don't become idle,' he told the Post on Tuesday, citing the Office of the Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister as a disconcerting example.
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