The Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry has seized five foreign-flagged vessels caught fishing illegally in Indonesian waters as sea patrols remain vigilant during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The ministry's Marine and Fisheries Resources Supervision Directorate General seized three Philippines-flagged vessels and two Vietnamese-flagged vessels in the North Natuna Sea and Sulawesi Sea on Saturday, Minister Edhy Prabowo said.
The arrests were conducted by three vessels of the directorate general in two different locations that were monitoring the area. He said the intensity of monitoring remained the same despite the coronavirus pandemic, as the ministry aimed to uphold the sovereignty of fisheries management in the country.
“We are prepared for any increase in illegal vessels operating in [Indonesian waters] amid the spread of COVID-19. That is why we are not decreasing our operations as illegal fishing is still rampant,” he said in a statement on Sunday.
In Sulawesi waters, the three Philippine-flagged vessels raised Indonesian flags to trick patrols, but personnel managed to detect them, he added. Officials apprehended 34 Filipino crewmen from the three vessels.
Six Vietnamese crewmen were apprehended from two Vietnam-flagged vessels caught in the North Natuna Sea.
The arrests came just a week after the ministry arrested two illegal foreign vessels from Vietnam in the North Natuna Sea.
Edhy explained that the arrests were the result of cooperation between personnel of the directorate general’s control center and the technical unit, which monitor and inform the location of illegal foreign vessels to the joint Supervision Unit that conducted the raids.
As part of efforts to strengthen protection of the country’s maritime resources, Edhy said he was considering adding operating days to eradicate illegal fishing.