Indonesia says a new policy to sink illegal fishing ships has been a success so far.
President Joko Widodo, widely known as Jokowi, Wednesday said the problem of illegal fishing was costing the country too much money.
"Therefore I instructed the ministry, the military commander, that this couldn’t continue. I instructed them three or four weeks ago to sink ships involved in illegal fishing. Sink them! No more! But thank Allah, last Friday, we started sinking several ships," he said.
Susi Pudjiastuti, the Fisheries and Maritime Affairs minister, said the move has caused a dramatic drop in foreign ships operating near Indonesia's Natuna islands without harming relations with neighboring countries.
She added that in the future, the plan would be to permanently confiscate the ships.
"When there is a deterrent effect, why should we keep sinking ships? It’s better to seize them for the country and give them to Indonesian fishermen," said Pudjiastuti.
Since Friday, Indonesia has detained and sunk at least three ships from Vietnam.
On Sunday, officials said they seized 22 Chinese vessels suspected of illegal fishing. It was not clear whether authorities planned to sink the vessels or confiscate them.
Vietnamese media later cited a spokeswoman from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as saying Vietnam had “serious talks with Indonesia" about this problem, and had requested that Jakarta handle foreign fishermen violating its territorial waters in accordance with international laws and on humanitarian grounds.
The spokeswoman also said Vietnam always instructs its fishermen to strictly abide by other countries’ rules and regulations to avoid violating their territorial waters.
Indonesia, an archipelago of thousands of islands, estimates it loses millions of dollars each year because of illegal fishing involving foreign vessels.
This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Indonesian service.