'Foreigners conduct illegal fishing using rented local boats'

Adrian David

KUALA TERENGGANU: Local fishing vessel owners have been responsible for ‘ali baba-ing’ (renting) their boats to foreigners, resulting in millions of ringgit in fish product losses for the country.

The shocking revelation comes following surveillance and intelligence monitoring by the authorities in recent years.

As a result, the east coast peninsula states of Kelantan, Terengganu and Pahang monthly nab hundreds of Vietnamese and dozens of vessels carrying out illegal fishing activities in the South China Sea.

Just for the first eight months this year, a total of 124 vessels and an estimated one thousand Vietnamese have been detained by the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency.

Officials were tight lipped when quizzed as to why the ‘theft’ continues so rampantly but it is understood that syndicates were behind the issue.

The NSTP learnt that the Fisheries Department issues licences to boat owners, some errant ones whom in turn sub-rent it out to the foreigners for as much as RM200,000 a year.

The latest case involves two Vietnamese boats with a crew of 23, aged between 22 and 50 years, who were detained by the MMEA’s KM Pekan about 80 nautical miles off the Kuala Terengganu estuary at dusk, yesterday (Wednesday).

MMEA Terengganu commander Captain Muhammad Suffi Mohd Ramli said that the enforcement team seized RM3 million worth of fish products, 4,000 litres of diesel and other equipment from both vessels.

“The fish products were mainly 100kg of dried squid and 1,500kg of a variety of fish, that were ready for export.

“This is the second seizure and arrests within ten days by KM Pekan which is conducting the maritime operation ‘Ops Makmur’ off Terengganu waters ,” he said.

Suffi added that the two Vietnamese vessels were caught red-handed while conducting a simultaneous dragnet sweep in tandem operation of the South China Sea seaboard.

“This sort of dragnet fishing is banned in almost all countries has it totally damages marine life and destroys the seabed,” said Suffi.

The MMEA, he added, had detained a total of 215 Vietnamese fishermen, 116 of whom have been convicted and sent to Marang Prison, and detained 65 foreign vessels for the first eight months this year.

Another 109 have been remanded in lockups awaiting further action by the courts.

Already, the MMEA’s Kuala Terengganu base has nearly 40 seized illegal Vietnamese vessels awaiting for further legal action.

Those nabbed were charged under Section 15(1)(a) of the Fisheries Act1985 for trespassing and illegal fishing, Section 6(1)(c) of the Immigration Act for no identification documents and Section 14(3)(b) of the Fisheries Act for falsifying documents. © New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd