Foreign fishing activity threatening Papua`s marine life

February 22, 2010 20:25 WIB ANTARA

Jakarta (ANTARA News) – The operations of many foreign fishermen in Papua waters have become a serious problem to Indonesia as they increasingly use equipment that damage the province`s coral reefs and other biota.

Aria Aditya Setiawan, a political and international relations observer, said here recently illegal fishing using trawls often occurred in waters just a few hundred meters off the Papua coastline.

The illegal fishing`s impact on the environment was posing a problem to Indonesia`s easternmost province. It was not only causing economic damage but also had a negative impact on the environment of the region because of the use of explosives, he said.

Aria who is head of the International Relations Department of the Jayapura Technology and Science University (USTJ) said the use of explosives in fishing had become popular because potassium was easy to get both legally and illegally.

Commonly, according to him, foreign boats which are often illegally fishing in Papua`s waters came from the Philippines, Thailand and China.

“There were also Indonesian ships cooperating with the foreigners so they could get bigger profits from Papua`s marine resources,” he said.

He said activities of foreign fishermen in Papua waters produced better results than those of Papua fishermen themselves because the former used high technology.

Meanwhile, Papuan fishermen are still relying on traditional fish traps.

Aria said, until 2008, security officers had inspected 39 foreign ships engaged in illegal fishing in Papua`s waters.

“Illegal fishing still poses a problem and gives a serious impact. Therefore the government including the security forces and the people should work together in dealing with the problem,” he said.

Coral reefs in Indonesia`s territorial waters reach to 51.000 kilometers square or 18 percent of the total coral reefs in the world and stretching from the western through the eastern parts of Indonesia`s territorial waters.

With its wealth in biodiversity, Indonesia lies in the coral triangle along with the Philippines, Malaysia, Timor Leste, Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands.

Currently, Raja Ampat islands in Papua Barat Province is the richest area in coral reefs in the world with 537 species of coral reefs and 1.074 species of fish.

Last year former Maritime and Fisheries Minister Freddy Numberi asked the National Police`s Criminal Investigation Department (Bareskrim) to dismantle the many illegal fishing networks believed to be operating in Indonesian waters.

The minister also requested Bareskrim to investigate fish and fuel oil barter activities in which Chinese fishing boats were known to be often engaged in Indonesian waters.

Numberi said his requests was tendered to the police in connection with the apprehension of 26 foreign fishing boats in waters off Papua`s southern coast by an integrated security agencies team.

All of the 26 fishing boats, including two Thai-flagged ones, were currently being detained at Timika`s Pomako harbor in Papua.

Numberi said his ministry believed some organization was behind the illegal activities in Indonesian waters and he had asked Bareskrim to bust it and uncover the individuals involved.

It was also reported the foreign fishing vessels used forged documents.

In the meantime, Navy spokesman First Adm. Iskandar Sitompul previously said the Indonesian Navy had seized 32 foreign ships in Papuan waters since the beginning of the month for crimes ranging from illegal fishing to the transportation of illegally harvested timber.

Iskandar said that most poachers were from Malaysia, the Philippines, China and Thailand. Most of the crew members were Indonesians, he said.

According to him, investigations had already been launched into all the cases and hoped that prosecutions would be filed in the near future.

He said that the seized ships were being held at a number of naval bases, including Jayapura, and Sorong and Manokwari in West Papua.

Court cases relating to the seizure of 25 vessels last year were still ongoing, with the owners of 21 of the vessels filing appeals with the Supreme Court, Iskander said. For example, the MV Golden Blessing was waiting for re-evaluation of its case by the Supreme Court.

Another vessel, the Siong-siong Hai-05099, would be auctioned off if its owners and crew members were found guilty of breaking the law, Iskandar said.

The Navy`s deputy chief, Vice Adm. Moekhlas Siddik, earlier said that in 2008 the Navy successfully prosecuted the operators of 100 domestic and foreign vessels.

During the year, Navy patrols inspected 1,869 ships, and of those, 521 were seized for alleged violations of Indonesian law, he said.

Indonesia is facing a host of unsolved maritime problems including rampant illegal fishing and the environmental damage from the dumping of toxic waste.

Based on a 2007 report from the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in Indonesian waters costs the state $2 billion each year.

Iskandar said not all the crimes were related to illegal fishing or logging. (*)

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