Indonesia sinks 41 foreign boats to deter illegal fishing
JAKARTA, Indonesia – Indonesia has sunk 41 foreign boats across the archipelago, including 11 from the Philippines and one from China, as part of an ongoing campaign to stop illegal fishing in its waters.
In a statement released to media, the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries said it sank 18 vessels in various parts of the country on Wednesday, May 20: 11 from the Philippines, 5 from Vietnam, two from Thailand, and one from China.
The Indonesian Navy sank a further 22 boats in the waters of Riau Islands.
"The sinking was done with low-explosive materials, so the body of the ships were still maintained," the statement said.
"It was done with the hope that the sunken ships would become new habitats for the fish in those waters, so they could still contribute to underwater resources, which in the end will help increase the welfare of fishermen."
The sinking of foreign boats are covered by a 2009 fisheries law, but Indonesia only started actively and publicly carrying them out in December, under President Joko Widodo and Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti. (READ: Why is Indonesia fixated on Fisheries Minister Susi?)
Since then, dozens of boats from neighboring countries, including Malaysia and Papua New Guinea, have been blown up with dynamite and sunk. But Wednesday's appeared to be the largest batch since.
It was also the first time a Chinese-flagged vessel was blown up: Gui Xei Yu 12661, which was taken into custody on June 20, 2009, for illegally fishing in the Indonesian Exclusive Economic Zone in the South China Sea.
The controversial boat-sinking policy had previously been criticized for excluding Chinese vessels.
Philippine boats and fishermen
The 11 Philippine-flagged vessels were blown up in Bitung, North Sulawesi, a province located to the south of Mindanao, bordering the Celebes sea.
The ministry said all 11 were caught fishing without proper permits from the Indonesian government.
The Philippines Department of Foreign Affairs said it has repatriated 139 Filipino fishermen from Indonesia since January, including 17 on Wednesday.
But according to state news agency Antara, another 128 Filipino fishermen are still detained in Bitung, and have been there since January after they were caught illegally fishing. – Rappler.com