DILI, 01 august 2022 (TATOLI) – Director General of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF), Acacio Guterres said, Timor-Leste continues to face illegal fishing activities in the Timor Sea, saying the country has limited facilities and human resources to control illegal fishing in Timor-Leste’s seas.
Timor-Leste’s maritime zone is more than 25,648 km2, this zone has different marine species including fish and other marine resources, but the lack of financial support, limited facilities, and human resources, illegal fishing continues to persist in Timor-Leste.
“The Timor-Leste government through MAF has limited control of illegal fishing in the Timor sea, due to the lack of facilities such as patrol boats and the lack of human resources to support control activities in the Timor sea, thus foreign fishermen take advantage of this opportunity to operate and catch fish and steal other marine resources in the Timor Sea so far,” said MAF’s Director General of Fisheries, Acacio Guterres, to TATOLI at the MAF office, Comoro Dili, Monday.
According to Guterres, MAF had identified via Australian satellites that from 1999 to 2017 illegal fishermen from other countries had operated over Timor-Leste’s seas and stolen all maritime resources.
“MAF does not have satellites to identify and detect illegal fishing activities in our seas, but MAF has used satellites from our neighbors Australia and Indonesia to detect illegal fishing from 1999 to 2020,”
Following identification data from MAF, in 2018, about 107 illegal fishing vessels operated and carried out illegal fishing in the Timor-Leste sea, at that time more than 239,460 tons of fish equivalent to $1,1996,120,000.00 were stolen from the Timor-Leste sea.
In 2019 the MAF identified a total of 69 fishing vessels operating in Timor-Leste’s seas, and illegal vessels have stolen more than 147,975 tonnes of fish or the equivalent of $838,350,000.00. Meanwhile, in 2020 around 48 fishing vessels carried out illegal fishing in the TL’s sea and stole more than 1,563 tons of fish or equivalent to $9,694,000.00.
“In recent years, from 2021 to 2022, MAF no longer has access to illegal fishing activities and has not recorded illegal fishing data because Indonesia has closed its satellite network, but MAF has planned to cooperate with other countries, in the Pacific island to use their satellite to access illegal fishing in the South Timor Sea,” Guterres explained.
At this point, Guterres assessed that the issue of illegal fishing should be prioritized, because illegal fishing that has occurred for years in Timor-Leste has reduced Timor-Leste’s marine resources including fish and other marine animals, these illegal activities also damage marine habitats, the environment, and the environment and marine ecosystems.
Guterres added that illegal fishing activities had previously come to the attention of the ASEAN Fact-Finding Mission Delegation (AFFM) from the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) in Timor-Leste, saying the concerns would be addressed by the AFFM-ACE delegation at the ASEAN Regional Forum to liberate Timor-Leste from illegal fishing and bring the country to access ASEAN membership.
In this regard, Guterres also said that the Government through the MAF and the Ministry of Defense has collaborated with the Australian Government to provide two patrol boats to Timor-Leste to control illegal fishing in Timor-Leste.
“Patrol boats will be offered to Timor-Leste from Australia in 2023, to ensure maritime security and the country’s sustainability in the future,” he said.
Journalist: Camilo de Sousa
Editor: Nelia Borges