The Ministry of Marine and Fisheries defended the policy Friday as the ministry and Indonesia’s Navy are scheduled to sink five Thai ships over the weekend in the Kapuas River in West Kalimantan province.
"There is enough evidence to sink the five ships from Thailand that stole fish in Indonesian water," the ministry’s director general, Gellwyn Yusuf, told The Anadolu Agency.
He accused the vessels of violating the fishing zone by employing only foreign crewmembers and using fake licenses. Last week, the ministry and Navy sank two Vietnamese ships off the Riau Islands province.
Sunday’s sinking operation is set to be supervised by Indonesian President Joko Widodo – popularly known as Jokowi – via a teleconference.
Gellwyn said the policy would be the lesson for foreign ships intending to fish illegally in the country’s waters.
On Wednesday, Widodo stressed the need to apply decisive steps as illegal fishing practices are estimated to cost Indonesia more than $20 billion in annual losses.
He said Indonesia's waters are used every day by more than 5,000 illegal ships, most of them coming from nearby Southeast Asian countries such as Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and China.
"We are allowed to sink, but it must match the procedure. The foreign minister also should immediately give an explanation to these countries," the kompas.com news website quoted Widodo as saying.
The president insisted illegal fishing is a criminal matter unrelated to diplomatic relations, with Indonesian officers and investigators being granted the right under a 2009 law to act against such practices.
The minister of marine and fisheries also stated the policy would not damage relations with nearby countries, arguing that the number of foreign ships operating near the Natuna Islands, a regency of the Riau Islands, had drastically decreased following the sinking operation last week.
“I have met Malaysia’s marine and fisheries minister and Thailand’s ambassador to Indonesia to talk about this issue,” Kompas quoted Susi Pudjiastuti as saying. “And they have announced to their home country not to catch fish in Indonesian waters illegally. They also have the same problem as us."
The minister mentioned future government plans to take possession of illegal ships and to give them to Indonesian fishermen.
On Monday, the Indonesian government set up a fish theft eradication task force to investigate violators of fishing laws, verify data on vessels, improve licensing procedures and calculate losses to the state.