TAIPEI - Taiwan yesterday urged Indonesia to refrain from firing on fishing boats illegally operating in Indonesian waters following reports the Southeast Asian country's navy was hunting four Taiwanese vessels to enforce Jakarta's vow to take a hard line against poaching.
Officials with Taiwan's Fisheries Agency asked that Jakarta observe international protocol that allows its authorities to seize poaching vessels and arrest their crews, but forbids them from opening firing.
The call follows reports that four Taiwanese fishing boats were among 13 foreign vessels being hunted by Indonesia's navy and that the Southeast Asian county had recently blown up three Vietnamese vessels and seized 22 China-registered boats illegally operating in its territorial waters.
The Indonesian navy identified the four Taiwanese fishing boats being pursued as the Goang Shing Lin No. 6, the Shin Jyi Chyuu No. 36, the Jin Yu Cheng, and the Yi Feng No. 682, according to CNA citing Indonesian media reports.
The Taiwan fishery officials said earlier in the evening that they had yet to confirm the reports, but that their boat tracking system had been adjusted to increase the frequency of the reporting of Taiwanese fishing boats' locations to better monitor the situation.
Warned to Obey Law
Taiwan said its fishermen had been warned of severe consequences of illegal fishing after Jakarta had spelled out a tougher line against poaching in its waters.
"No specific countries are being targeted. Fishing vessels from any country will be severely punished if illegally fishing in Indonesia," Chang Liang-jen, Taipei's representative in Jakarta, was cited by CNA as saying in response to questions about the situation of the four Taiwanese vessels.
According to CNA, Indonesian Marine Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti said her agency had reported the case to President Joko Widodo and asked the president to order the navy to hunt the ships down and seize them.
She said she hoped that the Indonesian navy would locate the ships as soon as possible.
She also asked Taiwan to warn its fishermen and to declare that it does not support illegal fishing.
President Widodo was cited as saying that the recent sinking of the Vietnamese boats was the first warning against poaching, and he vowed that his government would take further action if the warning was not enough to stop foreign fishing boats.
The New York Times has cited Indonesia as claiming that illegal foreign fishing operations rob the local industry of as much as US$25 billion (S$32.9 billion)a year in lost catches.