Indonesia has a warning for its neighbors in Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific: fish somewhere else. Indonesia’s navy and police on Tuesday destroyed what they said were 23 foreign fishing boats caught poaching in Indonesian waters since February, the government and news agencies said. Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti gave the order in a live-streamed message from her office and the vessels were sunk in seven locations around the country at about the same time.
Indonesia’s demonstration was a message to the other nations of the Western Pacific at a time when tensions are high over rights and territories in the region. China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan and other powers make competing claims over which nations control which islands, mineral rights and fisheries in the South China East Sea.
Thirteen Vietnamese and 10 Malaysian fishing boats were blown up, Indonesian officials said. They’re only the latest in what Indonesian officials called “dozens” of vessels destroyed by a navy and police task force charged with protecting Indonesia’s home fisheries.
Indonesia’s parliament passed a law in 2014 that authorized the seizure and destruction of foreign boats found to be trespassing in local waters. But that hasn’t stopped would-be poachers. At least two of the boats sunk on Tuesday had been caught flying Indonesian flags to try to fool the navy, the Jakarta Post reported.