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Indonesian Gunboat Fires on Chinese Fishing Fleet, 1 Fisherman Dead

  • Tim Johnston

An Indonesian naval vessel has fired on a Chinese fishing fleet, which was allegedly operating illegally. The Indonesian navy says that one fisherman was killed and two others injured in the incident. The government is trying to crack down on illegal exploitation of the country's resources, from fish to timber.

The Indonesian navy says it suspected the four Chinese ships of using illegal fishing nets, but when it tried to stop them to investigate, the crews did not respond to radio and visual messages and tried to flee.

The Indonesian patrol boat then opened fire on the largest of the vessels with a heavy machine gun, killing one crewman and injuring two others. The damaged ship has been towed to a nearby port, and the navy is searching for the other three boats.

The incident happened on Monday, near the province of Papua in the east of the Indonesian archipelago, but information emerged only on Wednesday.

The Chinese embassy in Jakarta says it is looking into the incident.

Illegal fishing is a common problem around Indonesia's 14,000 poorly policed islands, but Jakarta has recently tried to clamp down on the trade.

Hasjim Djalal, a member of Indonesia's National Maritime Council, says that illegal fishing costs the country between two and three billion dollars a year, but it is not only Chinese fishing vessels that are the problem.

"It's not directed against China at all," he said. "There are so many other illegal fishermen in Indonesian waters, it may just simply happen to be Chinese, there are quite a lot of Taiwanese also, there are quite a lot of Thailand, quite a lot of other, with the Philippines from time to time. There are always boats fishing illegally in Indonesian archipelagic waters in that area."

Illegal logging and fishing have been growth industries over the past 10 years, in part because of demand from China, which has seen dramatic economic growth in recent years. The Indonesian government, which is struggling to deal with a growing financial crisis, has begun trying to plug the holes that are robbing it of revenue.

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