Indonesia Blew Up And Sank 81 Illegal Fishing Boats

In their war against illegal fishing, the national government has promoted a policy of blowing up any illegal boats they catch in Indonesian waters.

03 April 2017, 9:59am

Photo by Humas KKP/Iqba.

Illegal boat sinking season is in full swing in Indonesia. Yesterday, the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries, in collaboration with the Indonesian military and police, blew up and sunk 81 boats around Indonesia.

Watching on an array of live streams and video conferences beamed in from 12 different locations around Indonesia, Minister of Marine Affairs and Fisheries Susi Pudjiastuti gave the order. "I count down from ten, then you go ahead and blow up those boats."

Susi and her staff blew up 81 foreign boats accused of illegally crossing into Indonesian waters. "We received generous help from the Indonesian Army and police to sink [those boats] in twelve locations, including Aceh, Pontianak, Bali, Sorong, Merauke, Belawan, Tarempa, Natuna, Tarakan, Bitung, Ternate, and Ambon," Susi said.

Out of 81 boats, 46 boats came from Vietnam, 18 boats were from the Philippines, 11 flew Malaysian flags, and 6 were Indonesian boats. One boat called SINO 36, which flew under an Indonesian flag, was taken by the government to be used as a symbol for in their efforts in tackling illegal fishing in Indonesia. 

This is not the first time Susi has blown up boats to show she means business when it comes to illegal fishing. Since the beginning of President Joko Widodo's administration in 2014, tackling illegal fishing became a top priority in Indonesia. As of today, Susi's ministry has sank up to 317 boats. 

The World Bank says that the fishing industry loses $20 billion USD every year due to illegal fishing. About 25 percent of all illegal fishing in the world takes place in Indonesian waters.

Some have said that blowing up boats is not actually doing much to curb illegal fishing. The Executive Director of Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) says that the policy is not effective in the long term, because the root of the problem is a lack of proper law enforcement. 

"Perhaps in short term, the policy is effective because it raises public support for law enforcement in Indonesian waters. But it's not a long term solution because our marine borders are huge. If we sink the vessel here, another can pop up somewhere else," CSIS Executive Director Philips J. Vermonte told VICE Indonesia.

Susi and her staff been accused of sinking boats without proper investigations and proof that they were actually fishing illegally. But Susi has remained firm, saying that she is protecting the sovereignty of Republic of Indonesia. Foreign vessels caught fishing illegally are to be sunk without due process.

The Indonesian government and Susi have shown know no signs of wavering from this explosive policy. "We have released a notice to countries whose boats are stealing our fish. We [need to] show them that we are serious. We sink their vessels so they wouldn't steal our fish ever again," Susi said shortly after the sinking ceremony in Ambon, Maluku.

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