Monday, April 6, 2009

Four foreign vessels caught for illegal fishing activities

UNDER CONTROL: KM Tabah (left) accompanying the two seized vessels to its centre in Kemena.

BINTULU: The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) Bintulu pounced on four Thai and Vietnamese fishing vessels within two days for carrying out illegal fishing activities in Malaysian waters.

MMEA’s patrol vessel KM Tabah led by commanding officer Lieutenant Nurul Azmie Zakariah spotted two curious looking fishing vessels bearing at 105 nautical miles from here and 25 miles from Mukah around 12.15am on April 3.

Azmie, who was met on his vessel (KM Tabah) offshore of Bintulu Port in Tanjong Kidurong here while hauling the seized vessels on Friday, said some 24 crew aboard were arrested including two skippers.

He said the two vessels were trying to flee when they spotted MMEA’s presence but after a 15-minute chase with 17 enforcers on board, the two illegal vessels were successfully seized without any struggle.

“Actually this is our routine operation. I was given the task and responsibility to safeguard four areas — Mukah, Oya, Tanjung Sirih and Bintulu.

“It’s not that hard to identify these illegal foreign vessels,” he said, adding that when they went closer to the suspected vessels, they noticed both vessels using Malaysian fisherman’s registration number but all the fishermen aboard were not Malaysians.

Meanwhile, MMEA Bintulu chief officer, Commander Sazali Mohamad who was also present on board said the two Thai vessels were using the same registration number — SF2-3621.

“We have no problem hauling the two vessels here,” he said.

He pointed out that the vessels were registered in Tanjung Manis, based on their preliminary investigation on the registration number.

“An estimated value of the seized items is still under process and verification by my officers but it is estimated that there are about 100kg of catches on each vessel,” said Sazali.

He noted that the process of charging the suspects in court would not be a problem because they were arrested along with evidence showing that they had breached the Malaysian maritime bylaw for carrying out illegal fishing activities without valid permits.

The Thai fishermen will be charged under Section 15(1(a) for not having permission and valid licence or permit to operate any fishing activities in our maritime territory, said Sazali.

On the overall arrests made by MMEA Bintulu, Sazali said since the operation was launched last December, this is their second raid involving foreign vessels.

On April 1, KM Tabah detained some 17 fishermen on two vessels from Vietnam also for the same offence at 9.15am at 105 nautical miles from here.

On April 2, their case was heard in the magistrates’ court and magistrate Cindy McJuce Balitus ordered them to be remanded under the custody of MMEA for a period of 14 days to facilitate investigation.

According to Azmie, MMEA patrol vessel had also spotted a Vietnamese fishing vessel bearing the registration number CM6830TS. Upon checking the skipper and nine crew members were found to have no valid permits for carrying out fishing activities in Malaysian waters.

KM Tabah then spotted another foreign vessel with the registration number TS1632 in the process of catching fish at 105 nautical miles at Tanjong Payung, about 11.30am the same day. Seven crew members aboard the vessel were detained and the case will be brought up for further mention on April 16.

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