Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti, far right. (Antara Photo/Jessica Helena Wuysang)

Stop Joking Around: Fisheries Minister Vows to Continue Blowing Up Illegal Fishing Boats

MAY 05, 2019

Jakarta. Indonesian border patrol sank 13 Vietnamese fishing boats on Saturday – the first time it did so in the past eight months – as Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti vows to continue her fight against illegal fishing.

"We destroy these ships to stop illegal fishing on Indonesian waters. Our marine resources, our fish, should be enjoyed by our own people, not foreign fishermen," Susi said on Saturday at a government event in Pontianak, West Kalimantan, as reported by Antara. 

The Vietnamese boats were part of a group of 51 fishing boats from Vietnam, Malaysia, China, the Philippines and Indonesia which were scheduled to go out to sea over the next two weeks. 

"This is a way of putting the fear of God into these illegal fishermen. We also continue to warn them through their ambassadors and their bosses," Susi said.

Sinking ships, often by bombing them, has been one of the wily minister's trademark tactics to scare off illegal foreign fishing ships.

The minister even has her own meme, usually featuring her stern face and her trademark catchphrase, "Tenggelamkan!" ("Sink them all!"). 

The seemingly extreme measure has helped Indonesia recover its fish stocks from 7.1 million tons in 2014 to 12.5 million tons in 2016, according to the Fisheries Ministry's latest data. 

However, Susi has faced a backlash for her action, not least from a fellow minister in President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's cabinet.

Luhut Pandjaitan, the Maritime Affairs Coordinating Minister, and several legislators have called Susi's action too extreme. They recommended putting up the confiscated ships on auction so local fishermen can buy them. 

Susi's critics argued that local fishermen do not have enough ships to make use of Indonesia's recovering fish stock. Also, sinking the boats – and its extensive coverage on local and international papers – unnecessarily annoy neighboring countries, they said.  

But according to Susi, ships that have been auctioned off can easily find their way back to their original owners, who would send them out to sea again to steal fish in Indonesia.

An incident in Natuna Sea in January backed up Susi's argument. A Navy patrol ship picked up two Vietnamese boats that had been confiscated and auctioned off six months earlier, fishing illegally again on Indonesian waters.

"Auctioning the catch from these illegal ships, that's okay. But if the ships are auctioned off, they will be used to steal again. Then we have to capture them again. Do you want other countries to see us as a joke?" Susi said. 

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