Indonesia Doubles Down on Natuna Waters Policy After Chinese Fishing Vessel Found


MAY 31, 2016

Jakarta. Indonesia will step up patrols of waters surrounding the Natuna Islands, using bigger Navy ships and Maritime Ministry patrol boats to secure the area in support of strict policies against illegal fishing in the vulnerable border region.

Last Friday (27/05), Indonesian frigate Oswald Siahaan 354 intercepted Bui Bei Yu, a Chinese fishing vessel, as it carried 500 tons of fish allegedly looted from the Indonesian waters of Natuna. Eight crew members were arrested.

Maritime and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti said the arrests and seizure is part of the country's strict policy against illegal fishing and will be implemented more strongly in the future.

“Every boat may pass through Indonesian Exclusive Economic Zone [EEZ], but if they took our fish while passing, we have the right to act. Not only China, but even the US and Russia — we will intercept without exception,” Susi said at the State Palace on Tuesday (31/05).

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Retno L.P. Marsudi said she has not received any protest of the incident from the Chinese government.

“I have not yet received any protest note from China. But I need to reaffirm that what we have conducted is a form of law enforcement established by Indonesian authority in our Exclusive Economic Zone … Again, this is law enforcement against those violating,” Retno said.

Hua Chunying, spokeswoman at the Chinese foreign ministry, on Monday said Beijing lodged a "stern" rebuke of the incident with its Indonesian counterparts.

"China and Indonesia have a different point of view about the waters and where the incident happened. A Chinese fishing boat was carrying out normal production activities there," she said.

Although acknowledging that the Natuna Islands belong to Indonesia, China has claimed the waters around them as its "traditional fishing grounds."

Indonesian patrol boats previously intercepted an illegal Chinese fishing boat in Natuna waters in March, when a Chinese coastguard vessel intervened, preventing Indonesian officials from confiscating the boat.

In response, Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu has announced plans to increase military personnel protecting the country's borders.