In a show of its seriousness to protect its territorial water, Indonesia sunk 38 foreign fishing vessels on Tuesday which it seized within its territorial waters.

Commentators say it was no coincidence that the sinkings, which were carried out in various parts of the country, took place on the 70th anniversary of Indonesia’s Independence Day.

The fishing vessels were from the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand  and Indonesia.

Susi Pudjiastuti, Indonesia’s Minister for Maritime and Fisheries, said maritime sovereignty was a  key factor in ensuring Indonesia’s unity.

She said as Indonesia was an archipelago, with two-thirds of its territory comprising of water, it was necessary to have sovereignty over its territorial waters.

“We have to be able to show that we can be triumphant on the sea because the sea is the future of our nation,” she said.

Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo who is leading the campaign against illegal fishing said it costs his country billions of dollars in lost revenue every year.

The foreign fishing boats, which had been seized after being caught fishing without permission in Indonesian water and had undergone due judicial process, were blown up or scuttled.

So as to not completely destroy the boats and cause pollution and floating waste, low explosives were used to sink five of the vessels, while the others were scuttled at several locations across the Indonesia archipelago, which is made up of more than 17,000 islands.

The decision to scuttle most of the vessels was made after concerns were voiced by green groups about the environmental impact of blowing up vessels, which had been the government’s preferred method in the past for seized fishing boats.

Asep Burhanudin, a senior official at the maritime affairs ministry said the hulls of the vessels would become a habitat for fish and would contribute to “enriching Indonesia’s seas.”

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