What is the Solution for Stopping Illegal Fishing within Timor-Leste’s Borders?
The national media recently reported that Timor-Leste’s F-FDTL naval forces detained more than four (4) cat a Metinaro-area beach on August 28th, 2015. The boats were suspected of carrying fishing material with 58 people from Indonesia. The suspects are currently being detained and awaiting an investigation process.
A survey reports that since 2006, Timor-Leste has detected 30 boats, including 25 boats in 2011, engaging in illegal fishing in the eastern and southern areas of Timor-Leste’s waters. The boats and illegal fishermen originated from Thailand and China, and many of them were found to be from Indonesia.
Why are Timor-Leste’s seas and resources under threat of illegal fishing? Previously, the President of the Republic, Taur Matan Ruak, has said that Timor-Leste continues to lose its fishing resources year by year. Data on illegal fishing for the past few years estimates that every year Timor-Leste loses US $36 million of fish and resources stolen by illegal fisheries. Civil authorities of security and defence have steadily maintained that Timor-Leste will not tolerate any such threats against national state sovereignty, nor against Timor-Leste’s richness in maritime resources. Therefore, the State Ministry Coordinator of Economic Issue and Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Estanislau Aleixo da Silva, declared to Indonesian media that TL will destroy any illegal boat that enter Timor-Leste’s boundaries. However, in FM’s opinion, foreigners and criminals will continue to use the sea as an alternative method for shipping contraband, illegal fishing, and the transport of wood and drugs. Is the decision to destroy illegal boats intended to frighten illegal fisheries and criminals engaged in other illegal activity away from Timor-Leste?
FM’s monitoring noted that Timor-Leste’s undefined maritime borders remain a challenge as well for TL security forces in defining their operational areas. It is a complex issue that Timor-Leste faces in its maritime area. Timor-Leste shares maritime borders with Indonesia and Australia, and there are a variety of resources (fish, coral, etc.) that need to be secured by Timor-Leste.
FM posits that the country needs to formulate a clear policy and decision to address the risk of illegal fishing in the Timor Sea. The investigation process of those complicit in the activities of illegal fisheries must be rigorous. TL must increase the capacities of its maritime security, particularly the F-FDTL naval forces and PNTL. Furthermore, the country should improve its security infrastructure and provide sufficient operational equipment to improve its security of the sea.