Indonesia is known as the world's largest archipelago. However, local authorities do not exactly know how many islands Indonesia actually has. Back in 1996 the central government made a rough estimate of 17,500. However, rising concerns about illegal fishery and radical Islam as well as growth of protectionism (the battle for natural resources) has made the Indonesian government eager to turn the rough estimate into precise knowledge. However, this will not be an easy undertaking.
At a United Nations (UN) meeting in August 2017 the Indonesian government wants to register the precise number of islands. Through the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) Indonesia hopes it will be better able to guard its territorial boundaries, islands and fish reserves. It is estimated Indonesia misses out on USD $20 billion every year due to illegal fishing.
For example, about two years ago there were clashes between Chinese fishermen and the Indonesian coast guard near the Natuna Archipelago, Indonesia's northernmost region in the South China Sea. China claims most of the South China Sea and therefore the Natuna Archipelago is most vulnerable due to its proximity to the disputed area.
But it will be a hazardous undertaking. At 1,904,569 square kilometers, Indonesia is the world's 7th-largest country in terms of combined sea and land area. It also remains unknown what the exact definition of "island" is (will there need to be a minimum size, does it need to have residents, and so forth). The name of an island can be registered provided at least two local people know the island by the same name. However, locals usually do not have a specific name for the many small islands that are located far from shore. Or it also happens that an island is known by more than one name (for example when fishermen use a different name than local residents).