The Jakarta Post
Despite a failed attempt to bring the MV Hai Fa to justice, the largest illegal fishing-related vessel the state has ever caught, the government has renewed its efforts to crack down on the perpetrators behind the incident to avoid setting a precedent for weak law enforcement.
Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti said she would explore a number of options to resolve the Hai Fa case even after its departure, including seeking help from international institutions and uncovering new evidence to build a new case.
'As you may have known, the MV Hai Fa left Indonesia on June 1, unbeknownst to the local port authority or fisheries monitoring officials. It is now in China [...] and we deeply regret this incident,' Susi told reporters in a press conference in Jakarta.
Susi said she was especially disappointed because the ship had managed to leave Indonesia through the Philippines without proper legal documentation.
The 4,306 gross ton (GT) Hai Fa departed northbound from the Ambon IX Naval base in Maluku, following a release order issued by the Ambon Prosecutor's Office on May 28.
The Panama-flagged tramp service ship, which had been in Navy custody since late last year, had managed to escape custody after a lenient court ruling to fine the ship's operators Rp 200 million (US$14,929) was left unchallenged.
The Hai Fa, with its 24 Chinese crew members, was suspected of conducting illicit practices after it was caught with 900.7 tons of frozen fish and prawns, as well as 15 tons of hammerhead and oceanic white tip reef sharks that are illegal to catch.
Susi said that the ministry's only option for extradition was to seek help from Interpol, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the Transportation Ministry.
Meanwhile, a team formed specifically to find new leads in the Hai Fa case uncovered a possible link between the tramper and the fishing operators that had supplied it with fish.
The cross-institutional team, led by Brig. Gen. Kamil Razak from the illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing prevention task force, said that there was a strong indication that the Hai Fa's fish suppliers ' PT Avona Mina Lestari, PT Dwikarya Reksa Abadi and PT Aru Samudera Lestari ' were directly linked to the agent in charge of leasing the Hai Fa, PT Antarticha Segarra Lines.
Dwikarya had previously been identified by the ministry as having an extensive record of noncompliance with the authorities, with all 67 of the company's ships suspended from operating.
Susi revealed that owners of the leasing agent were also listed among the shareholders of Avona and Dwikarya. 'If the company responsible for the fishing operation is implicated for violations, then the catch falls under the same circumstances,' she said.
Armed with this new evidence, the team would devise a new approach to press charges, she said.
IUU prevention task force deputy chief Yunus Husein added that a team from the National Police's Security Maintenance Agency (Baharkam) was looking into other possible violations made by Avona, especially in relation to the capture of protected marine species, which are illegal to export.
'In reporting the contents of the catch, there was no mention of hammerhead sharks, just 'mixed species'. The catch was also never evaluated for export, nor did it have health and quality certifications from the quarantine agency,' Yunus told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.