The Jakarta Post
The Destructive Fishing Watch (DFW) has called on the Indonesian government to increase patrols around the country's outermost islands in the North Natuna Sea of Riau, following reports of rampant illegal fishing by foreign fishers over the past few months.
The fisheries watchdog reported on Wednesday that authorities had seized at least 31 foreign fishing vessels from June to October this year for illegal and unreported fishing within Indonesia's exclusive economic zone in the Natuna waters.
“Twenty-one among them are Vietnamese-flagged fishing vessels,” DFW Indonesia coordinator M. Abdi Suhufan said in a statement obtained by The Jakarta Post.
In addition to unlawful overexploitation of fish stocks in Natuna waters, Abdi said, the foreign vessels also violated Indonesia’s sovereignty. He demanded that the government respond to the issue carefully but assertively.
Abdi further said that Indonesian authorities' efforts to crack down on illegal fishing at sea had often been met with strong resistance that led to high-seas brawls, including with Vietnamese-flagged vessels.
“This is dangerous and it needs to be handled with great care,” he said.
Echoing Abdi’s concern, DFW researcher Muh. Arifuddin suggested that Indonesian authorities conduct joint sea and air patrols on a regular basis.
“Indonesia cannot passively stand by as rampant illegal fishing and violations of sovereignty take place in Natuna waters,” he said, pointing to the lack of surveillance in the area by the current administration.
Despite promising greater military deployment in Natuna waters, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Edhy Prabowo had only detained 71 illegal foreign fishing vessels up until August this year. He began his role as minister in October last year.
Meanwhile, during the five-year term of former minister Susi Pudjiastuti from 2014 until 2019, more than 500 foreign vessels were seized or sunk for operating illegally in Indonesian waters. Many deemed this policy successful in tackling illegal cross-border fishing activities.