Indonesia announced a plan here Tuesday to forge cooperation with 10 other countries to jointly combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing practices.
The countries concerned are Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Singapore, Thailand, Timor Leste and Vietnam.
“Illegal fishing demands regional cooperation because this is a cross-border problem,” Aji Sularso, director general of monitoring and control of maritime and fishery resources at the Maritime and Fisheries Ministry, told a workshop in Nusa Dua, Bali.
The three-day forum, being hosted by the ministry, follows up on a senior official meeting held in Bangkok last year to draw up a plan to promote responsible fishing practices in the region.
The regional action plan was initiated by Indonesia and Australia at the Bangkok meeting.
Aji said each country lost up to 25 percent of their fish stock per year because of illegal fishing.
“You can just calculate 25 percent from Indonesia’s fish stock of 6.5 million tons a year,” he said.
With such huger fishery potential, Indonesia needs to better manage its fishery sector and minimize losses, he said.
In 2007, the ministry seized 184 of 2,207 fishing boats that were inspected by surveillance officers, including 89 foreign-flagged vessels.
The seizures were estimated to save the country Rp 439 billion (US$48.3 million) in potential losses, Aji said.
He said that amount came from Rp 34 billion in fishery income tax, Rp 23.8 billion in gas subsidies and Rp 381 billion from fishery resources.
The Bali meeting is being attended by senior officials from 11 countries and non-governmental organizations, who will identify monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) methods in each country.
The forum is also expected to reach an agreement on networking to accommodate bilateral, sub-regional and regional MCS cooperation, and formulate the next agenda for the regional action plan.
“We are planning to establish a coordinating committee at the next meeting,” Aji said.
Maritime and Fisheries Ministry spokesman M. Hartono said participants would determine the time and place for the next meeting at the end of the workshop.
Aji said he would also propose the committee’s secretariat office be placed in Jakarta.
“This will show Indonesia’s contribution to the region’s stability in fishing activities,” he said.
Peter Cassells, manager of Nothern International Fisheries at the Australian Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, said real progress could be made in combating illegal fishing by cooperating with Indonesia and other countries.
“I hope all the countries can benefit from good sustainable fisheries management and protect resources that each country needs for its security and economy,” he said.