JAKARTA - Indonesia has seized 92 foreign vessels in recent months for illegally fishing in the country's waters and plans to sink most of them this year, a senior official said Tuesday.
Minister of Marine Affairs and Fisheries Susi Pudjiastuti told reporters that 51 of the fishing boats are designated for sinking, while legal procedures are pending with regard to the remaining 41.
Susi said the fishing vessels, all seized since Aug. 18 last year, will be sunk in 11 different areas including the vicinity of Ranai, capital of Natuna Regency.
"Why? Because Ranai is located in the border area. It is near South China Sea," she said.
China's claim to almost the entire South China Sea overlaps with part of Indonesia's exclusive economic zone around the Natuna Islands.
Its stance is that those overlapping waters are a traditional fishing ground for Chinese fishermen.
Indonesia, for its part, has been stepping up sea patrols in the area.
It was not immediately clear how many, if any, of the 92 seized boats are Chinese.
But last September, Indonesian authorities said they impounded two Chinese vessels for illegally fishing in waters around the Natuna Islands, for the first time since an international arbitration court ruled two months earlier that China's sweeping claims to historical and economic rights in most of the South China Sea have no legal basis.
China has rejected that ruling.
Between October 2014, when President Joko Widodo came to power, and Aug. 17 of last year when authorities sank 58 foreign fishing vessels on the country's independence day, a total of 236 foreign vessels were sank, according to official figures.
Of the total, 96 were from Vietnam, 58 from the Philippines, 38 from Malaysia and 21 from Thailand, while only one was from China.