Reports have stated that Indonesia has been blowing up foreign boats confiscated for illegal fishing in the country’s waters. Twenty-three boats – 13 from Vietnam and 10 from Malaysia – were all blown up at the same time in seven different ports on April 5. The move comes two weeks after Jakarta heavily criticised Beijing for alleged poaching by a Chinese fishing boat.
China’s increasingly forceful efforts to claim ownership of most of the South China Sea have made Southeast Asian countries who depend on the resourceful seas more protective of their territories. Previously ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) pledged to step up efforts to deal with what they see as a threat from China. This latest action from Indonesia is seeing this pledge put into force.
Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti gave the order in a live-streamed message from her office for the Indonesian navy and police to sink the vessels via explosives. Indonesia has taken a tough stance against illegal fishing since President Joko Widodo took office in 2014, sinking a total of 174 boats. Currently the fate of 20 others await court rulings.
Parliament passed a law in 2014 that authorised the seizure and destruction of foreign boats found to be trespassing in local waters. Yet would-be poachers have still made attempts to disguise their intentions: The Jakarta Post reported that at least two of the boats sunk on Tuesday had been caught flying Indonesian flags in an attempt to fool the navy.
Last month, Indonesia destroyed the Nigeria-flagged vessel dubbed “The Viking”. It was wanted by Interpol – the world’s largest international police organisation – for poaching toothfish, a valuable deep-water species known commercially as Chilean sea bass.
There has been no known reaction from either Vietnam or Malaysia.