Uggah: Sarawak needs 2 landing crafts to safeguard EEZ from encroachment

Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas

KUCHING: Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas is appealing to the Prime Minister’s Department to seriously consider approving the acquisition of two landing crafts for the state Malaysia Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) under Budget 2018.

“The two units will be stationed in our waters with probably a one-month supply of fuel and food rations, and act as the base for smaller high-speed boats that patrol against foreign vessel encroachment,” he said.

Without the required assets, Uggah said the close cooperation among agencies and surveillance work will go to waste if the culprit manages to escape before patrol boats arrive at the scene.

“In fact, there has been very good cooperation among the agencies, but the issue is the (state) MMEA does not have enough assets. We hope (for) this coming budget, the request for the additional landing crafts by (state) MMEA plus the other assets will hopefully be considered.

“Without the assets, we can’t cover the whole area of our EEZ (exclusive economic zone). We need to have assets to be able to intercept (encroaching foreign vessels) and later on to take action. Our effectiveness depends on the availability of the assets. We need ships, radar, helicopter etc,” he stressed.

Uggah revealed that Sarawak had submitted its request to the federal government for the assets to be supplied to the state MMEA since the time of former chief minister, the late Pehin Sri Adenan Satem.

“Our EEZ is very wide and vast; some of our existing boats are too old and very limited in capacity and MMEA cannot act upon the complaints by our fishermen.

“Even if we use drones, if our boats are not strategically located, the encroachers will still manage to run away. Therefore, the state MMEA suggested that we must have two landing crafts stationed in the middle of the sea where, from there, smaller crafts can do surveillance and take all the necessary action to stop the foreign fishermen,” he emphasised.

Uggah was commenting on Malaysian Fisheries Development Authority (LKIM) chairman Datuk Seri Dr Irmohizam Ibrahim’s suggestion that a special committee be set up to coordinate and facilitate enforcement agencies in curbing encroachment into Malaysian waters by foreign fishermen.

He proposed that Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi chair the committee.

“I welcome the call by DPM (for enforcement agencies to be more serious in curbing foreign encroachment),” he said during an inspection visit to LKIM Tanjung Bako Fishery Complex at Tanjung Bako, here yesterday.

“It showed that he is seriously concerned about the issue, especially the intrusion of foreign fishermen. I am always hearing grouses from the fishing community, notably in the east coast of the peninsula as well as in Sabah and Sarawak,” he added.

Irmohizam was commenting on the loss of seafood worth between RM3 billion and RM6 billion annually to illegal fishing activities.

Noting the multiple enforcement and government agencies involved in combating illegal fishing by foreign vessels, he pointed out the need to create a special committee using the National Blue Ocean Strategy concept to serve as the central body to coordinate strategies and communications among agencies, including the Royal Malaysian Navy, MMEA, Fisheries Department, Immigration Department and LKIM itself.

“First, the coordination will enable better channeling of information and sharing of equipment because each agency has its own limitation.

“The creation of the special committee will send an important message to foreign fishermen that we will not compromise with their illegal activities, stealing fishery products in our waters,” he continued.

“Secondly, the joint effort will demonstrate unification of agencies under one roof, by which the fishermen can also join us later.”

Irmohizam expressed confidence that the upcoming Budget 2018 will touch on enhancing enforcement, which he viewed as timely for MMEA to add more assets to carry out operations in Malaysian waters.

“This is an important message to assure local fishermen that marine resources of Malaysia must be the resources of our economy. This is also to ensure that fish supply in the country can continue to increase,” he said, adding that demand for fish in Malaysia is increasing.

According to a news report, it was estimated that only about 50 per cent of seafood caught in local waters landed in the country while the rest were not reported due to leakages – foreign fishermen invading the country’s waters and local fishermen selling their catch to foreign fishermen.

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