Malaysia and Indonesia to Hold Joint Patrols Against Illegal Fishing

Malaysian and Indonesian authorities have agreed to carry out joint patrols against poaching vessels in waters that connect the two Southeast Asian countries.

Malaysian Home Affairs Minister Hamzah Bin Zainudin said the joint patrols would take place at least three times a year.

“This operation isn’t only targeting fishers from outside of the [two] countries, but also fishers from our own countries, Indonesia and Malaysia, who refuse to abide by the laws,” Zainudin added.

The two countries claimed the joint operation would strengthen maritime security against illegal fishers in the Strait of Malacca, one of the world’s most heavily trafficked shipping lanes, and the North Natuna Sea, at the southern tip of the hotly contested South China Sea.

In 2021, Indonesian authorities seized 22 illegal Malaysian-flagged boats, while the Malaysian authorities charged 14 Indonesian nationals for illegal fishing.

Meanwhile, according to the NGO Indonesia Ocean Justice Initiative (IOJI), the Malacca Strait and North Natuna Sea, which run from the northeast coast of Sumatra to the northwest of Borneo, were among the most vulnerable areas to illegal fishing by foreign vessels, especially from Vietnam and China.

While experts said fishing boats often violate other countries’ exclusive economic zones (EEZs) when they follow fish, the problem was specific in Southeast Asian waters, where the respective nations lack the fleets to stop every illegal vessel.

Malaysia reported losing up to 6 billion ringgit ($1.4 billion) to illegal fishing every year, while Indonesia reported losing an estimated $2 billion.

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