Violations and crimes against illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing by foreign fishing vessels are still rife in Indonesian seas throughout 2021. Vietnamese fishing vessels make most of these illegal activities occur in the Natuna Sea.
In addition to being a location for illegal fishing by foreign fishing vessels, Indonesian fishing vessels and fishers also often commit violations by catching fish in the sea areas of neighboring countries. So far, the Indonesian government has a limited budget, facilities, and infrastructure in handling illegal fishing practices.
The National Coordinator of Destructive Fishing Watch (DFW) Indonesia, Moh Abdi Suhufan, said his party recorded several Indonesian marine guard authorities. This authority consists of Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries, Navy, Marine Security Agency, and Air and Water Police throughout 2021 to arrest 75 foreign fishing vessels that carry out illegal fishing activities in Indonesian seas.
“The Indonesian maritime security authorities caught 75 foreign fishing vessels throughout 2021, and it is consist of 39 Vietnamese-flagged vessels, 27 Malaysian vessels, 6 Philippine vessels, 1 Taiwanese vessel, and two unflagged vessels,” said Abdi.
The number of ships that violated the possibility could be more because several ships managed to escape when they were about to be arrested. “50.6% of the locations where the fishing boats were caught took place in the Natuna Sea and were carried out by Vietnamese-flagged fishing vessels,” said Abdi.
Approximately 400 crew members of foreign fishing vessels are involved in illegal fishing activities. They are citizens of Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Myanmar, Taiwan, and Indonesia.
“Ironically, the 18 crew members of the fishing thief ship were Indonesian citizens because they worked on the ship,” said Abdi. His party analyzed that the number of foreign fishing vessels that carried out illegal fishing practices in Indonesian seas was since Indonesia’s fisheries supervision posture and capacity had not changed.
“Last year’s fishing supervisory vessel sailed only 100 days per year, so it was unable to respond to the many complaints submitted by local fishermen over the rise of foreign vessels in Natuna,” said Abdi.
By the end of 2021, the KKP’s surveillance vessels no longer carried out patrols because they ran out of fuel oil. “This is an irony for a maritime country, and Indonesia’s aspiration to become the world’s maritime axis is getting further and further away because we cannot protect the sea area from illegal fishing by foreign ships because of the limited supervision budget,” said Abdi.
He proposed that the operational costs and sailing days for the KKP supervisory vessels could be increased from 100 days per year. “The radar system has detected the presence of illegal fishing vessels entering Indonesian waters, but the intercept capability is limited if the operational capability is only 100 days,” said Abdi.
Meanwhile, DFW Indonesia researcher Muhamad Arifudin said that apart from being a location for illegal fishing by foreign vessels, Indonesian fishers and fishing vessels are involved in illegal fishing activities in neighboring countries.
“84 fishermen and Indonesian crew members were caught and detained by the Malaysian, Papua New Guinea, and Australian authorities throughout 2021,” said Arif.
They were detained for violating the law by carrying out fishing activities without a permit in the country’s marine areas. “the Malaysian authorities arrested 50%, and on average, they have gone through the legal process so that the Indonesian government has successfully repatriated them,” said Arif.
He asked the Indonesian government to develop a cross-sectoral strategic program to tackle illegal fishing practices in Indonesia. “Threats of violations and crimes can come from external and internal, so cross-sectoral integration is needed to deal with them,” said Arif.