31 October 2022

Maritime Security Threats and Illegal Fishing of Foreign Ships

Selama Juli-Septe

During July-September 2022, IOJI detected several alleged violations involving foreign vessels in the North Natuna Sea. One of them is flagged by Vietnam and the other two are from China.


Satellite imagery andAutomatic Identification System (AIS)* during July-September 2022 showed the presence of dozens of foreign fishing vessels (KIA) in the North Natuna Sea throughout September 2022.

Based on observations from the two mediums, IOJI suspects that as many as 54 Vietnameseflagged KIAs did this illegal fishing in the North Natuna Sea. Not only that, their presence was also escorted by Vietnamese patrol boats.

The ships operate in the northern part of the North Natuna Sea. Their area of operation is included in the non-disputed Exclusive Economic Zone of Indonesia (ZEEI).

Apart from them, four Vietnamese KIA were also detected who were repeating illegal fishing in the non-disputed ZEEI. Also called repeated offenders, the four ships were seen in the same area before the July-September 2022 period.


Pair Trawling in Non-disputed Waters

Satellite imagery shows three pairs of ships crossing the coordinates of the North Natuna Sea. It is strongly suspected that these three pairs of vessels crossed the North Natuna Sea on September 1, 2022.

Based on observations of satellite imagery, KIA Vietnam moves in pairs towards the same direction with a distance of about 300-400 meters between ships. Combined with the findings of the Vietnam KIA’s low speed (2-3 knots), IOJI concluded that the Vietnam KIA was operating with a fishing pattern pair trawling.

IOJI’s findings are in line with the study of Finnish fisheries expert, Petri Suuronen. In a study titled “A Path to a Sustainable Trawl Fishery in Southeast Asia” published in 2020, he found 10,000-15,000 Vietnamese KIA using the pair trawling.

Pair trawling is a fishing activity carried out by two vessels, each with one towing line. The towing force of the two ships allowed them to cast a bigger net. This method also has the potential to strengthen the fuel efficiency of both.

Overall, IOJI found three key assumptions during the July-September 2022 period in the North Natuna Sea:

illegal fishing activities by Vietnam-flagged Foreign Fishing Ship (KIA) in the North Natuna Sea escorted by Vietnamese patrol boats

interference with the use of Indonesia’s sovereign rights over fish resources in the North Natuna Sea by the China Coast Guard Ship (CCG 5403) and

violation of China’s Military Survey Vessel crossing obligations in the Indonesian Archipelagic Sea Lanes I (ALKI-I). *AIS data obtained from provider MarineTraffic. Meanwhile, satellite imagery data was obtained from Sentinel-2 belonging to the European Space Agency (ESA).

The full press statement can be read here.

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