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Indonesia Sinks 81 Foreign Ships for Illegal Fishing

FILE - In this image made from video, an illegal fishing vessel that was seized by Indonesia’s Navy is sunk in the waters off Pangandaran, West Java, Indonesia, March 14, 2016.

Indonesian authorities destroyed 81 foreign ships over the weekend after seizing the vessels for fishing illegally in the country’s waters.

The world’s largest archipelago nation has taken a tough stance against illegal fishing since President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo took office in 2014. Authorities have sunk 317 foreign vessels since then, including the most recent.

The ships were blown up at sea in 12 locations around the archipelago Saturday. The most destroyed in one area was 26 in Natuna on the edge of South China Sea and 10 in the nearby seaport of Tarempa.

Most of the vessels were from Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Thailand.

Indonesia was upholding its sovereignty and combating illegal fishing, said Susi Pudjiastuti, the minister of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, who witnessed the sinking of two ships in the port of Ambon in Maluku province.

“We hope Sino (the name of one of the ships) is the symbol of our victory against poaching after years of defeat, especially in eastern Indonesia,” Pudjiastuti said. She expressed hope that the action would deter poachers.

Pudjiastuti declared a fishing moratorium for foreign vessels immediately after taking office. “The state’s sovereignty has to be upheld.”