Jakarta. The Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries has seized 17 foreign vessels over the past two weeks for fishing illegally in Indonesian waters.
"After arresting four Vietnamese-flagged boats on March 7, this time we have successfully nabbed 17 foreign boats for illegal fishing," Eko Djalmo Asmadi, director general of oceanic and fisheries resources surveillance at the ministry, said in a statement on Tuesday (21/03).
All the vessels were seized by patrol boats in the Riau Islands and North Sulawesi.
The first arrest was made in the Natuna Islands, in Riau Islands Province, on March 12, when five Vietnamese-flagged fishing vessels were found illegally fishing using a pair trawl without proper documents. All 44 Vietnamese crewmembers were arrested.
The next day, another patrol boat seized two more Vietnamese vessels and arrested 13 crewmembers for fishing illegally in waters off the Riau Islands.
On March 14, yet another patrol boat stopped six Vietnamese fishing boats that had Indonesian names on their hulls to deceive officials. All 57 Vietnamese crewmembers were arrested.
"Eleven Vietnamese fishing vessels have been detained at the ministry's base on Batam Island since March 19, while two other vessels are being detained at the Anambas Island base. All boats will be processed in accordance with Indonesian law," Eko said.
Four Philippine vessels, Qumay, Alexandrea, Braveheart and Jefeah, including 17 Filipino crewmembers, were also detained for illegal fishing in waters off North Sulawesi on March 17.
The vessels and crewmembers are being held at the ministry's base in Sulawesi.
The crewmembers on the seized vessels will be prosecuted for fishing illegally in Indonesian waters, with each facing up to six years in prison, and maximum fines of Rp 20 billion ($1.5 million).
Indonesia has intensified efforts to eradicate illegal fishing in its waters and implement sustainable investment principles that will lead to a long-term increase in catches and profitability for the domestic fishing industry.
The preliminary result of an ongoing study by research think-tank Sustainable Fisheries Group at the University of California, Santa Barbara, showed that the recent crackdown will triple the fish biomass, or amount of fish, in Indonesian waters. This will allow local fishermen to double their catches in a best-case scenario.
Indonesia banned trawl fishing in 2014 and imposed a size limit on crab catches.