Saturday, August 20

Foreigners using phony documents to fish in Sarawak

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KUCHING: The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (APMM) has uncovered a new tactic deployed by foreigners to fish illegally in the Sarawak exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

CORNERED: An APMM personnel stands guard as his colleagues question the Vietnamese fishermen. — Bernama photo

Its state head First Admiral Ismaili Bujang Pit believed that many foreign fishermen were affixing the registration number and documents of foreign fishing vessels that were no longer in operation onto their vessels.

“We are aware of this new trend following the arrests of several foreign fishermen who had tried to clone the particulars of vessels that were originally issued by the state authority.  Their tactic also involved them painting their vessels according to the colour assigned to respective zones and displaying the registration numbers of inoperative vessels. To dupe maritime enforcement agencies they will fly the national flags,” he said. Ismaili warned that APMM would go all out to track down the culprits.

“It cannot be ruled out that the cases reported so far could be just the tip of the iceberg. We plan to launch a massive operation by the end of this month to solve this problem. The operation will be coordinated by our headquarters and it would probably involve the use of our aircraft,” he said.

Ismaili said this at a press conference in Muara Tebas yesterday to announce the agency’s latest success in cracking down alleged encroachment by foreigners into the Sarawak EEZ, and the cloning of registration numbers and use of false documents.

In the latest case, which happened last Saturday, 30 APMM personnel on board KM Bijak, led by Lieutenant Maritime Aidil Adzhar Saleh, detained two Vietnamese fishing trawlers with 23 crew members, aged between 17 and 40 years old, at Tanjung Sirik and Tanjung Datu.

One of the vessels was said to have no load, possibly because it had earlier offloaded their catch to a ‘mother ship’.

The other boat had one metric ton of fish on board.

Both vessels were intercepted at about 90 nautical miles from Tanjung Po. Both were found to have cloned registration numbers (SF2-3876 and SF2-3448), and the captains could not produce any valid documents.

“We are investigating the case and the suspects will be charged in court under Section 15 (1) (a) of the Fisheries Act 1985, where upon conviction the skippers could be fined up to RM1 million or imprisonment for a period not less than six months,” he stressed.

Ismaili said from January up to now, APMM Sarawak had registered 168 cases, and the majority of them involved offences under the Fishery Act. There were 31 cases under the Customs Act, Malaysian Shipping Ordinance (30), Human Trafficking Act (five), Trade Description Act (one) and others (five).

He attributed the success achieved by the agency thus far to the good cooperation given by local fishermen.