Indonesia is taking the 1980s antihero approach to the twin issues of overfishing and foreign encroachment in its waters: there’s no problem that can’t be fixed with explosions.
So the first issue is that Indonesia is getting overfished, and Indonesia’s Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti believes that the reason for it is a bunch of foreign ships fishing in Indonesian waters, as a really quite thorough new article by Bloomberg reports.
Pudjiastuti’s policy to combat this illegal fishing? Arrest the fishermen, seize their boats, then blow them up.
The fishermen are then taken to the border and dropped off. How they deal with their ship getting sent to the murky depths is not exactly clear.
The plan appears to have worked in dramatic fashion, with the country’s total catch actually rising from a low of 2.5 million tons to 6.6 million tons with healthier stocks. The exploded ship count sits at 220.
But this very much plays into the second issue that it’s not just foreign ships by chance entering Indonesian waters. Indonesia is wrapped up in the massive territorial dispute in the South China Sea, in which pretty much every country in the region seems to have overlapping claims on the waterway, important for getting oil to China. So Chinese fishermen using Chinese maps enter Indonesian waters thinking they haven’t left their own country’s jurisdiction, and China’s Navy and Coast Guard moving increasingly far into Indonesian waters doesn’t help set them straight.
So Indonesia’s explosion-base policy certainly seems to be effective at getting the country’s fishing population back in order, but what kind of effect it’s going to have on the country’s foreign policy against an aggressive China remains to be seen.