Photo: Indonesia ministry of marine affairs and fisheries

Photo: Indonesia ministry of marine affairs and fisheries

At a time when tensions are high in the South China Sea, Indonesia has taken tough action against foreign vessels, which it says are fishing illegally in its waters.

Captured trawlers have been publicly blown up and sunk – but that is just one part of the country’s bigger plans for its maritime sector.

Indonesia is now taking its campaign to European consumers telling them to buy Indonesian fish because it’s high quality and traceable.

Mark Godfrey has more from Brussels.

Nilanto Perbowo is a director general at Indonesia’s Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries. 

He thinks Indonesia’s strong stance on what the United Nations terms, “Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated,” or IUU, is crucial to the country’s prosperity. 

He was in Brussels last week to meet buyers and get better access for the fish that Indonesia wants to supply. I asked him how the country’s battle against illegal fishing vessels from China has improved life for the country’s own fishing sector. 

According to Nilanto Perbowo, the Chinese government does not support illegal fishing. The Chinese and Indonesian governments have been in discussions regarding their shared efforts to combat illegal fishing.  He believes that the rate of illegal fishing has reduced in recent years, and that there are more resources directed towards the problem. 

Ady Surya is the managing director of Karya Mandiri Citramina, a tuna processing company that hopes government action against illegal fishing will give Indonesia’s own fishing companies an opportunity to build their markets globally. 

He says the government’s campaign against illegal fishing gives a chance to companies like his, which attract customers by emphasising the traceability of their products. 

Karya Mandiri Citramina exports to Europe, Japan and the USA. They produce skipjack and tuna from yellow fin, and have committed to ‘traceability.’ They ensure the fishing vessels, companies, and areas that they source from are legal.

Europe wants their products – and they are keen to purchase ethically.

Especially after abusive practises, such as slavery, were recently revealed in a series of investigations in the fishing sector in Southeast Asia. 

Hugo Verhoeven is a Dutch trade official who has advised Indonesia on access and marketing to the EU seafood market for the past decade. He says that the EU is supporting and preparing companies to be ready to export to Europe.

“Indonesia is one of the biggest producers of fishery products in the world, it’s an archipelago with a big sea and with many species, quite a few of them have good export possibilities," says Verhoeven. 

"They are recognising more and more that they have scarce valuable resource that should be managed in a proper way that also keeps value for the future generations. I think they have realised that themselves,” Hugo Verhoeven commented.

From sea to table, efforts are now underway to grant Indonesia easier access to the EU’s seafood market.

According to Olvy Anrianita, an Indonesian trade diplomat based in Brussels, preparations for the negotiation of a free trade pact between the EU and Indonesia are underway. 

Anrianita believes that a free trade agreement between EU and Indonesia would result in better market access, and would increase trade and investment. She sees such an agreement as beneficial to Indonesia.

“We hope to soon launch the formal negotiations for a free trade pact,” Anrianita said.

Protecting its waters may be key to the country’s future says Nilanto Perbowo, from Indonesia’s Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries. He says that the Indonesian government takes serious measures to eradicate illegal fishing in their national waters.

Perbowo stated, “Two thirds of the area of Indonesia is sea, so our future should be at the sea.”

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