JAKARTA, KOMPAS.com – The Indonesian Navy and Coast Guard (Bakamla) continues to have their work in the North Natuna Sea off the Riau Islands Province cut out for them, despite their vigorous efforts to assert Indonesian sovereignty in the area.
The Destructive Fishing Watch (DFW) Indonesia NGO noted that there have been 31 instances where foreign trawlers were caught illegally fishing in the waters since last June.
“Vietnamese trawlers make up the majority of the offenders, as they were involved in 21 of the incidents,” said DFW Indonesia National Coordinator Moh Abdi Suhufan in a written statement on October 28.
“They are also the likeliest to resist the Indonesian authorities by ramming and other violent actions. These actions are dangerous and need a high degree of anticipation.”
He urged the Indonesian government to tread carefully in handling illegal fishing, as it is not the only issue encountered in the Natuna Sea.
“The North Natuna Sea is subject to volatile international geopolitics. Aside from illegal fishing by Vietnamese boats, China vessels are also known to illegally enter Indonesian territorial waters.”
DFW researcher Muh Arifuddin agreed with Abdi. “Indonesia needs to carry out combined air and sea patrols [to enforce] Indonesian interests [in the Natuna Sea].”
“These patrols should be done regularly so Indonesia can project its military power [in the area]. This gesture also shows that Indonesia will not stand by passively, while other countries disregard its sovereignty in Natuna sea by trawling fish at will in Indonesian waters.”
Indonesia claims the North Natuna Sea as part of its exclusive economic zone. The country’s stand put it at odds with China, as parts of the waterway are included in the ‘nine dash line’ of territorial waters claimed by Beijing.
(Writer: Achmad Nasrudin Yahya | Editor: Diamanty Meiliana)