The Jakarta Post
Some 35 vessels weighing more than 75 gross tons owned by fishermen from Rembang, Central Java, are set to leave for the Natuna Sea following President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s instruction to utilize Indonesia’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) for the welfare of Indonesian fishermen.
Jokowi recently paid a visit to Natuna regency in Riau Islands — his fourth since taking office in 2014 — in what observers described as a determined signal of Indonesia’s territorial integrity and defense of its sovereign rights in the area amid tensions between the country and China over the latter’s maneuvers in the North Natuna Sea.
Central Java Maritime and Fisheries Agency head Fendiawan said that the Natuna waters were indeed home to an abundance of fish as a result of the meeting of two currents there, making the area a target for foreign fishermen from Thailand, Vietnam and China.
“Those who left for Natuna asked for fuel assistance because of the long distance, as well as security guarantees from the Indonesian Navy and the Maritime Security Agency, and ports to land and sell the fish,” Fendiawan said on Wednesday.
“If Chinese fishermen are escorted by the [China] Coast Guard, our fishermen must also have security escorts in Natuna,” he added.
Fendiawan went on to say that it was likely that not only fishermen from Rembang but also those from several other large ports in Central Java, such as Tegal and Batang, would set off for Natuna.
In addition, the central government held a meeting on Monday with relevant agencies about the mobilization of fishermen from Java, Sumatra, Kalimantan and Sulawesi to go to Natuna.
“If the focus is on exploring Natuna, we must have specific cold storage, fish-processing and auction facilities. Large ships from Central Java are usually equipped with freezers so the fish can be brought to Surabaya, Semarang or Jakarta to be sold in those cities,” he said.
There are currently in Central Java 171,000 fishermen and 874 fishing boats weighing over 30 gross tons that are compatible of taking on long-distance fishing expeditions. (syk)