Illegal fishing boats will be burnt, sunk

KOTA KINABALU: The government has stressed that there will be no compromise for foreign fishing vessels found encroaching into Malaysian waters and harvesting our marine products.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Dr Shahidan Kassim said foreign fishing boats found committing the offence will be burnt and sunk.

Deterrent action against the non-Malaysian fishing vessels will be taken through the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA), he said at a press conference here yesterday.

He pointed out that the encroachment has caused Malaysian fishermen to lose out millions of ringgit as they are not able to harvest marine products, especially in deep sea.

Shahidan said patrol and enforcement operations will be increased as the encroachment problem in the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia is getting serious.

The situation in Sabah waters is still under control and the incidents of encroachment by foreign fishing vessels in the state is not as serious compared to what is happening in Peninsular Malaysia, he said.

Shahidan disclosed that records showed that so far this year, MMEA has detained 133 foreign fishing vessels for encroaching into Malaysian waters. Of the total, 108 are Vietnamese boats and the rest are Indonesians.

He added that for Sabah last year, a total of eight foreign fishing vessels were detained, six from Vietnam and two from the Philippines, while up to date this year, MMEA has arrested three Vietnamese and three Indonesian fishing vessels.

“So far, we have detained more than 1,000 foreign fishing vessels. I hope the courts can expedite the legal proceedings so that action can be taken against the offenders,” Shahidan said.

According to him, there are Vietnamese fishing vessels in Malaysia but these are owned by locals.

The Malaysian owners, he said, did not make any changes to the vessels and used them as it is, adding that the Vietnamese crew usually come with the boats.

“There are 31 such Vietnamese boats licensed in Sabah. This is based on the Malaysia Fisheries Department’s records for 2016,” he said.

He also disclosed that some of the local owned Vietnamese boats were found committing offences such as operating with an expired licence, trawling outside the permitted areas, using fishing equipment and method not stipulated on their licence and having crew with expired work passes.

For a foreign fishing vessel found committing an offence, the case will be investigated under Section 15 (1) (a) and Section 16 (3) of the Fisheries Act 1985, where the captain, if found guilty, can be fined a maximum of RM1 million and its crew RM100,000 each. The vessel will also be confiscated.

In the case of a local registered boat, the investigation will also be under the Fisheries Act 1985, which carries a RM500 compound for the first offence, RM1,000 for the second and RM1,500 the third. He said the government is now contemplating banning them from fishing after the third offence.

Shahidan also called on all agencies and the maritime community to continue working together to combat the issue of encroachment by foreign fishing vessels.

Also present was MMEA Kota Kinabalu maritime director, First Admiral Adam Aziz.

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