Shark and Trepang Fishing in Australia’s Northern Waters: Illegalised Activities of Indonesian Fishermen
China is the largest market for shark fin and trepang, and Australia’s northern waters are one of the fishing areas for these commodities. Indonesian fishermen have a long history of fishing in the region, and it is known that “Makassan” had contacts with Aboriginal people before the arrival of Europeans to the northern coast of Australia. Due to China’s economic growth in the 1990s and the increasing demand for shark fin and trepang for banquets, the region has attracted more Indonesian fishermen.
Australia, on the other hand, has extended its territorial waters and has introduced various border management systems such as the establishment of a fishery zone, an Exclusive Economic Zone, nature reserves, immigration zones and quarantine areas, as well as taking measures to strengthen the integrity of its borders. Only traditional Indonesian fishermen are still permitted to fish in the designated area, while no other foreign fishing vessels are allowed in Australia’s EEZ.
The increase in the number of “boat people” arriving to its shores urged the Australian government to toughen its border controls. Vigorous operations by the Australian authorities resulted in the rise of illegalised activities of Indonesian fishermen. Many were detained and their boats destroyed due to their illegal fishing activities as well as for engaging in “people smuggling”. It is argued that the main concern of Australia’s border management is to prevent the “threat” from the north, rather than to protect its maritime resources.