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Indonesia, Malaysia to hold joint patrols against illegal fishing

  • Malaysia and Indonesia have agreed to hold joint patrols against illegal fishing in the waters that connect the two Southeast Asian countries.
  • The patrols are expected to beef up maritime security against illegal fishers in the Malacca Strait and the North Natuna Sea, as well as protectthe rich marine biodiversity there.
  • Illegal fishing by foreign vessels inflicts losses of up to $1.4 billion a year in Malaysia, and $2 billion a year in Indonesia.

JAKARTA — Malaysia and Indonesia, whose fisheries have long suffered from illegal fishing, have agreed to carry out on joint patrols against poaching vessels in waters that connect the two Southeast Asian countries.

The joint operation in particular will beef up maritime security against illegal fishers in the Strait of Malacca, one of the world’s most heavily trafficked shipping lanes, and the North Natuna Sea, at the southern tip of the hotly contested South China Sea. The initiative will include sharing technological advancement in monitoring, and will be formalized in an agreement drafted by both governments later this year, according to a statement published by Indonesia’s Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries.

“This operation isn’t only targeting fishers from outside of the [two] countries, but also fishers from our own countries, Indonesia and Malaysia, who refuse to abide by the laws,” Hamzah Bin Zainudin, the Malaysian home affairs minister, said as quoted in the statement. He added the joint patrols would take place at least three times a year.

Malaysian Home Affairs Minister Hamzah Bin Zainudin, left, and Indonesian Marine Affairs and Fisheries Minister Sakti Wahyu Trenggono. Image courtesy of the Indonesian Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries.

Authorities in both countries have frequently arrested fishers from the other country operating illegally in their respective waters. Indonesia seized 22 Malaysia-flagged boats in 2021, while 14 Indonesian nationals are currently facing legal proceedings for illegal fishing in Malaysia, the statement noted.

The joint patrols are expected to reduce harms to the countries’ shared marine ecosystems, as illegal vessels typically practice overfishing and destructive fishing that threaten the sustainability of fish stocks, said Indonesian Marine Affairs and Fisheries Minister Sakti Wahyu Trenggono.

The Malacca Strait and North Natuna Sea, which run from the northeast coast of Sumatra to the northwest of Borneo, are among the most vulnerable areas to illegal fishing by foreign vessels, particularly from Vietnam and China, according to the Indonesia Ocean Justice Initiative (IOJI), an NGO.

Fishing boats often violate other countries’ exclusive economic zones (EEZs) when they follow fish, experts say, and the problem is particularly pronounced in Southeast Asian waters, where the respective nations lack the fleets to stop every illegal vessel. Malaysia loses up to 6 billion ringgit ($1.4 billion) to illegal fishing every year, while Indonesia loses an estimated $2 billion.

Indonesian authorities patrolling the Malacca Strait. Image courtesy of Indonesia’s Marine and Fisheries Ministry.

This story was reported by Mongabay’s Indonesia team and first published here on our Indonesian site on Jan. 28, 2022.

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