Fishing in Banda Aceh, Indonesia
Fishing in Banda Aceh, Indonesia

JAKARTA — The Indonesian government has been waging a war on illegal fishing since the election two years ago of President Joko Widodo, who'd vowed to curtail poaching when he was running for office.

But the crackdown on poachers has damaged legal fishermen as well, leading to a fall in fish exports, fewer jobs, and has devastated the fish processing industry, Indonesian English-language daily the Jakarta Post reports.

Illegal fishing costs the Indonesian economy an estimated $20 billion a year. The minister for maritime affairs and fisheries, Susi Pudjiastuti, has embarked on an expansive assault on illegal fishing that includes burning more than a hundred illegal vessels and banning fishing boats from transferring their catch to ships at sea, the paper notes.

The ban was justified on the grounds that ships often carried the catch to ports in the Philippines, Thailand, Taiwan, and China. Ignoring Indonesian ports meant the local fish processing industry didn't get any business. But the ban also targets companies that were never involved in illegal fishing, Jakarta Post reports.

Fish exports collapsed in the last two years, falling from more than $4.5 billion to less than $1.5 billion. In the fishing-dependent eastern Indonesian region of Maluku, the closure of several fishing companies caused unemployment to spike to 7.5%, according to a report from Bank Indonesia, Indonesia's central bank, that was cited by the paper.

Indonesian magazine Tempo writes that the maritime affairs ministry, which announced a plan to build new fish processing facilities in eastern Indonesia, is responding late to the crisis. The new government policy would also aim to provide improved transportation to raise fish prices in the region, which are ten times lower than in capital Jakarta, and lift blue-collar wages, the magazine reports.

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Chepa Beltran/LongVisual via ZUMA
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-Analysis-

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