Large-scale illegal fishing by passing foreign trawlers is rampant in the Arafura Sea, including waters off Merauke and Mimika regencies, despite patrols, according to authorities.
The 15-day Operation Gurita, conducted by the Indonesian Marine Security coordinating board, intercepted 33 foreign trawlers, seven of which were from China operating in the Arafura Sea without any sailing and fishing documents.
The seven Chinese trawlers had set sail from China without the required documents, the head of the board Vice Adm. Djoko Sumaryono told The Jakarta Post in Timika over the weekend.
Sumaryono said illegal fishing was widespread in the Arafura Sea because of its abundant marine resources, such as the valuable yellow-tail tuna. Security and surveillance are reportedly lax in the area. So much so that unauthorized foreign vessels are free to catch fish.
“We are a sovereign country whose resources must be protected. It is the responsibility of the relevant agencies to oversee and observe foreign vessels passing through the country’s waters,” he said.
“The abundant, potential wealth being stolen by outside parties is due to a lack of surveillance.”
The coordinating board, formed only a year ago, and the 12 supervising departments must jointly be responsible for protecting the country’s marine resources, Sumaryono said. He said the coordinating board would continue to process the seized foreign vessels up until the legal proceedings.
“Whoever dares to meddle with the seized ships will confront us. We work in the interest of the nation to protect its overflowing marine assets,” he said.
Asked about reports indicating a number of seized vessels were released in 2006, Sumaryono said he would not speak about the past, but rather on the 33 vessels intercepted and violators facing justice.
Monitoring Indonesia’s waters involved the Maritime Affairs and Fishery Ministry, the police and others, Sumaryono said, therefore, the board had not encountered problems in conducting its tasks at sea.
“Of the 33 illegal trawlers, 24 of them are being held at the Samudera Port in Pomako, Mimika, and the others at the Merauke Port, so as to expedite security,” he said.