By Tama Salim
The government has foiled plans to smuggle protected marine species abroad at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Tangerang, Banten.
Head of the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry’s Fish Quarantine and Inspection Agency (BKIPM), Narmoko Prasmadji, said a technical team had apprehended a Chinese national after discovering 2,350 live soft-shelled sea turtles hidden inside 10 shipments of mangrove crabs from the total 49 Styrofoam boxes bound for Shanghai, China.
“At 2:30 a.m. on Jan. 17, our quarantine and inspections team from Jakarta thwarted an attempt to export soft-shelled sea turtles to Shanghai on a Singapore Airlines flight,” Narmoko told a press briefing in Jakarta.
The shipment of turtles, estimated to cost around Rp 470 million (US$ 37.600) with an average market price of Rp 200,000 per kilogram, was prohibited by Law No. 5/1990 on the Conservation of Natural Resources, Narmoko said. The species is also listed under Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), making them illegal to catch.
National Police spokesman Sr. Comm. Agus Rianto said that one suspect in the case, identified only by the initials WH, was in police custody, and could face five years in prison and an Rp 100 million fine.
In the operation, the ministry and the police also confiscated 709 mangrove crabs with a carapace length of less than 15 centimeters. The crabs were exported by a company identified as PT MJW.
He said the agency also intercepted a number of attempts to export live, reproducing lobsters, as well as some small lobsters exempt from capture, in accordance with a new government regulation.
On Jan. 16, a BKIPM officer prevented the shipment of 140 young lobsters measuring fewer than 8 cm in carapace length. The cargo was scheduled for delivery to Hong Kong on board flight CX-798. “We’ve yet to measure the lobsters in terms of weight, but if 1 kg of the best-quality lobster is sold at a retail price of Rp 700,000, things add up pretty quickly,” he said.
According to recently passed Marine Affairs and Fisheries Ministerial Regulation No. 1/2015 on the capture of lobsters, mangrove crabs and blue crabs, these three commodities are no longer allowed to be caught and sold on the market if they produce eggs or if they did not fulfill the minimum measurements.
The regulation stipulates that only lobsters with a body shell measuring over 8 cm, mangrove crabs measuring above 15 cm and blue crabs measuring over 10 cm are allowed to be captured and traded.
The rule is based on scientific evidence that shows the lobster population is dwindling faster than its reproduction rate, with several fishing territories already on alert for scarcity.
The ministry’s research and development division head, Achmad Poernomo, said several designated fishing areas were in critical condition.
“The lobster population is on red alert in our territories in the West Indian Ocean, the South China Sea, the western coast of Sumatra and north of the Java Sea,” Achmad told reporters, on Monday.
“The same goes for the Pacific Ocean area, the Arafura Sea and north of Papua.”
The illegal shipping of marine resources has run rampant in the country, a sprawling archipelago with the second-longest coastline in the world.
Previously, a large 4,236 gross ton ship called the MV Hai Fa was caught with 900.7 tons of frozen fish and prawns, as well as 66 tons of hammerhead sharks and oceanic white tip sharks, which are illegal to catch.
Marine Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti estimated losses incurred from the MV Hai Fa amounted to Rp 70 billion in 2014.