Jakarta. Many fishermen on Java's northern coast have manipulated the weight of their trawlers by removing necessary equipment at time of inspection to avoid paying government-mandated fees and to receive subsidies, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti said.
The findings revealed a worrying level of illicit and damaging practices in the country's fishing industry at a time when the government is seeking to reform the sector and introduce sustainable norms.
The Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries conducted inspections in Tegal and Rembang in Central Java over the past two weeks and discovered that 259 of 336 vessels inspected in fact weighed above the maximum allowance dictated by the government for trawlers.
"From those two locations, we have confirmed that trawlers were mostly above 30 gross tonnage," Susi said in a press conference at her office on Monday (12/02).
A 2010 ministerial regulation capped the maximum allowance for trawlers at 30 GT.
"In addition to avoid paying fees, the fishermen made themselves eligible to obtain subsidized diesel by attempting to mark down the weight of their ships," the minister added.
Susi said that all the 259 boats were grounded until the trawlers are replaced with other ministry-approved vessels.
A 2015 regulation bans the use of fishing trawlers and seine nets, classifying them as unsustainable and environmentally harmful as those nets can reach the seabed and destroy coral reefs and the ecosystem around them.
But implementation of that regulation has been delayed repeatedly due to mass protests from fishermen.
In January, the government and representatives for fishermen reached an agreement on the use of trawlers after thousands rallied in front of the State Palace in Jakarta to demand they be allowed to keep using the antiquated vessel.
The agreement stated that the government will not revoke its 2015 ministerial regulation.
But fishermen who have registered their boats with the ministry are allowed to use trawlers only on Java’s northern coast until they can afford to replace their ships.
The government has also committed to helping fishermen replace trawlers with more environmentally friendly equipment by providing cheap bank loans.