Indonesia shifting away from Susi Pudjiastuti’s controversial policy of sinking IUU boats

Published on
November 21, 2019

The government of Indonesia is considering a halt to its policy of sinking foreign fishing vessels operating illegally in the country.

Instead, the government would give boats seized for illegal activity to local fishermen, the Jakarta Globe reported on 20 November, quoting Indonesian Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Edhy Prabowo.

Under Prabowo’s predecessor, Susi Pudjiastuti, who was replaced in October 2019 by Indonesian President Joko Widodo as part of a cabinet reshuffle, Indonesia had implemented a hardline policy against illegal foreign-flagged ships. Pudjiastuti is credited with ordering Indonesia’s maritime authorities to sink more than 500 illegal fishing vessels during her time in office.

"We hope these [boats] could be of some use [to us], we could benefit [from them] … We could donate them to local fishermen, for example," the new minister said. 

At present, there are 72 illegal boats under Indonesian government custody by order of the court. Of these, 45 are in good condition, six boats had to be destroyed, and the rest are in poor condition.

The Indonesian ministry is trying to come up with measures for putting captured foreign boats docked at local ports to better use, the Jakarta Post reported. Edhy said he would hand over the seized boats to fishermen, co-operatives, and local governments or universities for training purposes. He also promised the government would perform periodic checks on the boats to ensure they are not sold back to their original owners.

Edhy has not said publicly if he is considering a reversal of some of Pudjiastuti’s other policies, which include a moratorium on new licenses being granted to ex-foreign fishing vessels and a ban at-sea transshipment in Indonesian territorial waters, which can be used as a cover for illegal exports. 

Business Cooperatives Forum Mina Batam Madani Chief Executive Musa Muhammad told the Jakarta Post that the former minister’s tough measures had significantly reduced the rate of illegal fishing in Indonesia.

"The ship-sinking policy is good because it gives a deterrent effect to those operating illegal fishing vessels," Musa said.

Pudjiastuti’s policies are credited an increase in biomass in Indonesian waters , reducing the amount of IUU fishing in Indonesia, and for improving the economic outlook for local fishermen.

In a speech at the official handover ceremony between Edhy and Pudjiastuti, Edhy said he had been tasked by Widodo to “continue to fight for traditional fishers and businesses in the marine and fisheries sector” and to push for improvements in the country’s aquaculture sector.

Photo courtesy of Akhmad Dody Firmansyah/Shutterstock

Reporting from Hanoi, Vietnam

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