Forestry police at the Karimunjawa National Park captured a ship and its crew attempting to salvage material from sunken wreckage off the park's coast Friday.
Chief investigator of the East Java national park Agus Prabowo said beside capturing the vessel -- the KM Puji Jaya -- the forestry police detained six crew members and the ship's captain, all of whom were undergoing interrogation.
According to a preliminary inquiry, the attempted salvage, from which the suspects retrieved 1.3 tons of scrapped iron, was prevented with assistance from regency police.
The wreckage belongs to the national park, as it lies in waters within park territory, Agus added. The incident took place near the southern tip of Sintok Island, on the Menjangan Besar waters, part of the national park.
Another park investigator, Eko Novi, said salvaging of parts had long since been prohibited because of potential damage to coral reefs and because surrounding waters belong to the park.
"Vessels involved in salvaging attempts have damaged numerous aquatic species, such as anthipates, as well as coral reefs, in addition to threatening the underwater ecosystem, which is protected by the 1990 Natural Resources Conservation Law," he said.
Agus said the suspects would face natural resource conservation disturbance charges, which carry a maximum five-year jail sentence and a Rp 100 million (US$10,900) fine for convictions.
Asked about the sunken ship's owner, Agus repeated the national park had authority to preserve the vessel wreckage because it lay within park territory.
"They would not have been prohibited, had they tried to salvage parts outside the park's territory," he added.
The suspects, residents of Jepara, said they planned to sell the scrapped iron in local markets and did not know salvaging from wrecks in the waters off the park was illegal.
"We look for iron from shipwrecks, which we can sell for Rp 2,500 per kilogram. This is how we earn our living. We won't be able to pay the Rp 100 million fine," said the vessel's captain, identified as SU.