The Jakarta Post
Four Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry's fisheries and marine resource surveillance unit patrol boats have detained seven Malaysian-flagged fishing vessels for allegedly trawling for fish in Indonesian territory, the Malacca Strait.
All crew on the fishing vessels are alleged to be Indonesian citizens who had been illegally employed by Malaysian businessmen to fish without permits in Indonesian waters.
The ministry's fisheries and marine resource surveillance unit head Akhmadon said that it was not uncommon for Malaysian companies to employ Indonesian people, without providing them with legal work documents, to carry out illegal fishing activities in Indonesian waters.
'Not only are they fishing in our territories illegally, they have also used fishing vessels equipped with trawls, which are prohibited as they are destructive to the local marine environment,' Akhmadon told thejakartapost.com on Sunday.
The ministry said the seven Malaysian vessels were detained on Feb.1, along with the 36 crew members, all Indonesians.
The captain of fishing vessel KM SLFA 2915, Indra, 34, a resident of Tanjung Balai Asahan, North Sumatra, said that, by using a tourist passport, he entered Malaysia to work as a construction worker two years ago. His experience as a seaman had eventually led Indra to work for a fishing company in Negeri Perak, Malaysia.
'In Asahan, only a few fishing companies were still operating. That's why I was okay to work as a fisherman in Malaysia, as a captain of a fishing vessel. Besides, working in Malaysia, I was able to get quite a high income,' said Indra, claiming that as a captain he was paid RM 100 (US$24.10) per day.
A crew member of a fishing vessel, he added, could get RM 70 per day, far higher than in Indonesia where a daily salary is a mere Rp 50,000 ($3.71) per day.
Indra said that he and the 35 other fishermen were fully aware that they were in Indonesian territories but that they kept fishing in the area, no matter what, due to the high catch potential.
Berton, another of the arrested crew members, also said that the income he could receive from working for a Malaysian fishing company was far higher than what he would receive working for an Indonesian company.
'Thus, we decided to work for Malaysian companies and fish in Indonesian territories. Higher income was the only reason for us to do this,' said Berton.
Akhmadon said the seven Malaysian fishing vessels had been operating in waters around the Malacca Strait for some time before they were caught by the ministry's sea patrols. They would be charged with Law No.31/2004 on Fisheries which carries a penalty of five years in prison and Rp 2 billion fines, he went on.
'Once there is a final court ruling, we will sink all of those vessels, while the suspects, who are all Indonesians, will be repatriated to their home towns,' said Akhmadon. (ebf)
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