Indonesia destroys 81 foreign fishing boats for poaching

According to the authorities, this latest step has taken the total number of boats confiscated and destroyed up to 317.

Indonesia destroys 81 foreign fishing boats for poaching
Malaysian and Vietnamese fishing boats are destroyed for illegal fishing by the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, police and navy, in Batam, Riau Islands, Indonesia, April 2016. Reuters

Indonesia destroyed almost 81 fishing boats on Saturday that were caught poaching in its waters. This latest step takes the total number of boats confiscated and destroyed to 317 since President Joko Widodo took office and launched a battle against the poaching of fish in October 2014.

Among those fishing boats which have been sunk so far, there are 142 vessels from Vietnam, 76 from the Philippines, 49 from Malaysia and one from China. Most of them were caught by a special maritime task force known as Satgas 115.

The Southeast Asian country has some of the world's richest fishing grounds, but authorities have struggled to prevent trawlers, often from Asian neighbours, from making incursions into the seas around the vast archipelago.

Susi Pudjiastuti, the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister, said that she hoped the sinking of the ships would be a deterrent for perpetrators of illegal trawling. "We hope that Sino is a symbol of our victory over fish poaching," Pudjiastuti told Reuters.

On Saturday, the sinking was held simultaneously at 12 different locations across the country and supervised by the Indonesian military and police. Pudjiastuti herself witnessed two vessels being destroyed in Ambon in eastern Indonesia.

"There was a time when thousands of foreign vessels came freely to steal our fish, but now they will know, Indonesia will overcome this crime", Pudjiastuti added.

However, this strict policy on illegal fishing has at times created serious tension with the neighbouring countries. In 2016, a Chinese coast guard vessel intervened when Indonesia attempted to detain a Chinese vessel for fishing illegally in waters near the contested South China Sea.

Last year, Widodo had said that the country suffers annual losses of more than US$20 billion (S$29.3 billion) from poaching in its territorial vast waters. The country has been trying extremely hard to abolish trans-shipment activities, and going after poachers in order to achieve its goal.