Indonesia is second only to China in total wild-caught fish production. The world’s largest archipelago sits at the meeting point of the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Consequently, major currents from both oceans feed the area with an incredible mass of nutrients. These fishing grounds support over 800,000 commercial vessels and employ upwards of 6.4 million Indonesians.

Continued fishing effort in northern Asia has led to dwindling fish stocks and an increasingly southern-bound fishing fleet. Indonesia’s Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti, lovingly known as Ibu Susi, has taken a stand against the encroaching fishing pressure, putting Indonesia front and center in the push for more sustainable fishery development.


An illegal fishing vessel demolished in a recent round of explosions

The most visible step by Ibu Susi is the scuttling of hundreds of illegal fishing vessels. Susi makes a spectacle of the event, rigging the illegal vessels with explosives and inviting media to observe the demolition.

Annually, illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing is responsible for global catches of up to 26 millions, or up to USD 23 billion in value. Fishing makes up 14% of the Indonesian economy, making IUU fishing and broader fishery development a primary focus. Susi’s efforts to mitigate IUU fishing haven’t gone unnoticed.

In a recent interview with Bloomberg news, Susi explains, “If you fish in my EEZ, that’s illegal fishing. If that fish is in my EEZ, that’s mine. If that fish swims past the EEZ, that’s anybody’s.”

Simple enough, right?

Not quite.

A state’s oversight on the water is limited by its 200 nautical mile EEZ, or exclusive economic zone. As the global fishing fleet continues to pressure fish stocks under the growing demand for seafood, it’s not uncommon for vessels to venture, illegally, into other countries’ EEZs. Illegal fishing vessels go to extremes to fill the boat. One vessel captured by Indonesia reportedly had 32 country flags on board. IUU fishing undermines a state’s economic right to the resource and management efforts.

Signed in 2009, the Port State Measures Agreement is the first international treaty aimed at curbing IUU fishing. The treaty requires designation of specific ports for use by foreign vessels. Foreign vessels must request permission to enter ports ahead of time, providing local authorities with detailed information about the vessel, including the fish they have on board. Authorities can conduct inspections of the cargo on board, their log book, licenses and fishing gear. If offenses are identified, vessels can be denied entry to a port.

With the support of President Joko Widodo, Susi brought Indonesia under the treaty earlier this year. The World Wildlife Fund acknowledged her efforts with the Leaders for a Living Planet Award. Susi has championed an array of fishery improvements beyond cracking down on IUU fishing. Marine Protection Areas, banning harmful fishing gear, and minimum catch sizes for certain species have all been pushed forward during her time in office.

Most importantly, Susi’s effort reflects unified support by the Indonesian government. It’s an exciting prospect to be working with a government invested in sustainable fishery development.