A penchant for dynamiting illegal fishing vessels has made flamboyant Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti Indonesia’s most popular, and restored tens of thousands of jobs to small-scale fishing along the way. When she was appointed to President Joko Widodo’s cabinet 14 months ago, commentators thought Ms Pudjiastuti and her illegal fishing crackdown would not last.

In Bali last week, she told delegates from 40 nations attending Pacific fisheries negotiations that depletion of Indonesia’s fisheries were so bad that businesses worth $4 billion had closed down. Between 2003 and 2013, the number of households earning their primary income from fishing dropped by half to 800,000.

“Shrimps and fish in small villages decreased every single year until one day everything stopped,” Ms Pudjiastati said. “There is nothing to export anymore, and even hard to find something to eat.”

Indonesia, with its 17,000 islands, has the world’s second longest coastline and 5.8 million square kilometres of ocean territory. Fish is a vital source of protein for its population of 250 million people. A self-made business tycoon who started out 30 years ago with a small fish and lobster business, Ms Pudjiastuti now owns a major domestic airline. It was from this position that Mr Widodo enlisted her in an ambitious plan to reset the world’s view of his nation. “The vision of the President is to bring back the prosperity of Indonesia as a maritime country,” she said.

“We want to build back our strength as the centre of gravity of marine activity around the region.”