Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Indonesia, the worlds largest archipelagic nation, has abundant marine resources with economic prospects touching Rp3,000 trillion (US$257 billion) per year.

But, Indonesian waters (almost 70 percent of its national territory) are exposed to illegal fishing activities by foreign poachers. Between 2001 and 2003, 6,215 cases related to illegal fishing had been recorded.

Poaching in Indonesian waters has been on the rise due to poor supervision and legal enforcement to curb illegal fishing by foreign fishermen and boats.

According to Public Coalition for Fisheries Justice (Kiara), the state lost Rp101 trillion to illegal fishing activities between January and August 2014, during which a total of 1.6 million tons of fish (182 tons per day) were stolen from Indonesian waters.

Most of the foreign fishing boats that poached in Indonesian waters came from Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and China.

"Boats bearing the flags of foreign countries entered much deeper into Indonesian territorial waters and islands," Selamet Daroyni of Kiara said in Jakarta on Oct 29, 2014.

He further stated that nine of the countrys 11 regional fisheries management areas have indications of overfishing due to poaching.

Earlier, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Unitary Indonesian Traditional Fishermen (KNTI) M. Rizal Damanik said 30 percent losses caused by illegal fishing in the world was suffered by Indonesia.

"So, according to the report of the FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Department, illegal fishing has caused losses to the tune of US$23 billion. And about 30 percent of illegal fishing in the world occurred in Indonesia," Rizal Damanik added.

Given the huge losses suffered by the state, new Minister of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Susi Pudjiastuti has expressed her determination to eliminate illegal fishing activities from Indonesian waters.

According to the minister, the country has suffered a significant loss, especially in the form of tax revenue, due to illegal fishing.

"I will eradicate them all," Susi Pudjiastuti had stated at a press conference after the transfer of power between her and her predecessor Sharif Cicip Sutardjo.

She had also noted she might continue the good programs created by Sutardjo. "I will see, in the course of time, what to change or retain in the various policies of the previous minister," Susi added.

During a meeting with entrepreneurs from the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin), on Oct. 30, 2014, the new minister revealed her plans to stop issuing new entry permits to fishing trawlers until the end of 2014.

While justifying her decision to put a halt on the issuance of new entry permits to fishing trawlers, she apologized if the decision was to negatively affect the fisheries business in Indonesia.

According to the minister, several foreign ships and Indonesian ships sponsored by foreign parties had carried out illegal fishing in Indonesian waters, especially near Maluku, Sumatra, and the Indian Ocean.

"Dont you want to be independent? Why should someone else (foreigners) enjoy our rich natural resources?" Susi, who is also an entrepreneur, asked.

Indonesia has abundant marine resources, but they are subjected to rampant poaching because the nation lacks necessary regulations to protect its natural resources, she stated.

Australia, for instance, has a policy to protect 70 percent of its Great Barrier Reef from fishing activities, she pointed out.

She also has plans to invite foreign ambassadors to discuss issues concerning illegal fishing in Indonesian waters.

"I plan to invite all foreign ambassadors to talk about illegal fishing," the minister said.

The minister revealed she wanted to have a "heart-to-heart" talk with the ambassadors.

Earlier this year, the maritime affairs and fisheries ministry had disclosed that the country was losing Rp101 trillion (US$ 8.8 million) a year to illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing activities in its waters.

It also resulted in the Indonesian government losing revenue from foregone tax on fisheries products and fuel subsidy, the secretary to the maritime affairs and fisheries ministrys director general for supervision of fishery resources, Ida Kusuma Wardaningsih, stated in early 2014.

Besides this, local fishermen, especially those working as small scale communities, could not compete with illegal fishermen who usually deployed bigger ships to poach in Indonesian waters, she added.

One of the largest maritime countries, with about 5.8 million square kilometers of marine territory, Indonesia has around 92,000-km-long beach and coastal areas.

Safeguarding such a large maritime zone is not easy particularly in the absence of facilities such as adequate patrol boats. Despite the limitations in protecting its water territory, the Indonesian government is determined to fight IUU fishing.

According to data from the ministry, from January to April 2014, the Indonesian water police confiscated 16 ships involved in illegal fishing in Indonesian waters. Eight of the ships carried Vietnams flag.

From 2007 to April 2014, the Directorate of Marine and Fisheries Resources Control seized 103 Thai fishing ships.

Meanwhile, Rizal Damanik of KNTI advised the new government on three challenges in the maritime sector. The first challenge is to coordinate the state budget for the maritime sector by focusing on the welfare of fishermen and marine economic sovereignty.

"The second is to manage natural resources that cause losses in marine and fisheries sector. The role and functions of the maritime sector is only calculated on the basis of economic contribution and land area as an indicator of mobilization of the state resources," he added.

The third challenge is to get fishing organizations, farmers, and coastal dwellers to participate in the drafting of public policy.

Reporter: Fardah
Editor: Priyambodo RH
Copyright © ANTARA 2014