Indonesia has embarked on the task of counting its islands in order to better protect its territory and marine resources. It hopes to locate and name an additional 1,700 islands in time for the UN Conference on the Standardization of Geographical Names in August. Indonesia wants to claim sovereignty and fishing rights in the waters surrounding the islands, many of which its neighbors also claim. The Indonesian government says illegal fishing in its waters is costing billions of dollars in lost revenue each year. A fisheries spokeswoman told the BBC: "Sixty per cent of islands in Indonesia don't have a name or officially have legal status, so they can easily be taken or claimed by another country."
Indonesia is the world's largest archipelago. At the last UN conference on geographical names in 2012, Indonesia registered 13,466 islands. A law in 1996 estimated that the number of islands was 17,508. The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea defines an island as, "a naturally formed area of land, surrounded by water, which is still exposed at high tide". A spokesman from Indonesia's Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries explained the scale of the task the counting team had. He said: "We have to visit every one of these islands, and then we note the coordinates, the name, the meaning of the name, the history of the land and describe the landscape and its geographical history…all that in great detail."