President wants Natuna to be regional fish auction center

Indonesian President Joko Widodo wishes to turn Natuna into a regional fish auction center, Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs Rizal Ramli said here on Wednesday.

"The president reiterated the importance of making it a fishing town and setting it up as an example. Let us just follow the best example in the world where fish could be collected and cold storage facilities are available. If necessary, a national auction center can be built there like the Tokyo Fish Market (Tsukiku Market)," he stated at a press conference after a limited cabinet meeting at the presidential office.

Rizal pointed out that the best fish auction site in the world is Tsukiji Market.

"Why should people go to Tokyo if fish is available in Indonesia? We need to build the fish center in Natuna so that people from across the world can participate in the auction there," he argued.

To realize the idea, Rizal added, infrastructure, cold storage and other facilities must be built there.

The minister explained that the government will have to expedite the development of the fishery sector in the Natuna Islands because so far, catch capacity has only reached nine percent of the total potential in the region.

"There is an abundant amount of fish but our catch capacity is only nine percent. Many foreign fishing boats have been coming there and poaching fish," he complained.

He vowed that the government would no more allow foreign ships to indulge in such an illegal act as used to happen in the past, and would ensure that Natuna becomes the center of national fish business.

Rizal admitted that licensing problems were still hindering the country's ships to operate and they were having to deal with two ministries -- the Ministry of Fisheries and Maritime Affairs and the Ministry of Transportation -- for issuance of a fishing license and a certificate to operate.

"The President has asked that these functions be integrated so that ships above 30 GWT can operate in Natuna," he disclosed.

He informed that the President has also asked the Minister of Fisheries and Maritime Resources to give traditional fishermen, having above 30 GWT ships and operating in North Java Sea, a permit to catch fish in Natuna.

"So far, they were not being given permits to catch fish in Natuna while these were given to foreign ships or foreign Indonesian-flagged ships," he noted.

The Minister of Fisheries and Maritime Affairs has also been urged to give permits to traditional fishermen owning ships above 30 tons that can operate up to a range of 120 miles to fish in Natuna Islands waters.

The meeting also urged the State Enterprises Minister to facilitate local and national fishery companies by providing them with working capital through state-owned banks and give them an investment opportunity to increase local and national catch capacity.

"We wish local and national fishing fleets are given an opportunity to fish there (in Natuna), and be helped with credit facility so that the current nine percent catch capacity can be enhanced immediately," he concluded.

Source: Antara News