Indonesia will mark its independence day this month by sinking 71 foreign boats that were seized for fishing illegally in the country's waters, the fisheries minister said Monday.

Officials will sink the boats in eight locations on August 17, the country's national day, by opening valves to the sea to allow water to flow into the hulls, Susi Pujiastuti said. 

In the past officials used explosives to destroy and sink foreign vessels caught for illegal fishing. 

"We don't want to act excessively," she said on abandoning the use of explosives. "I think [fish poachers] have now learned their lessons."

She did not say if seized Chinese fishing vessels were among those to be scuttled. 

China lodged a strong protest with Indonesia last month after Indonesian warships fired shots at Chinese fishing boats accused of stealing fish in what Jakarta says is part of its exclusive economic zone.

It was a third such incident involving Chinese ships in waters off Indonesia's Natuna Islands this year. 

The Natuna Islands and surrounding waters are the closest to the Nine-Dash Line, a demarcation used by China as the basis of its unilateral claim to a majority of the resource-rich South China Sea.

Indonesia has taken a tough stance against illegal fishing. It has sunk more than 150 foreign fishing boats seized for poaching since 2014.

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