KUCHING: A total of four foreign vessels originating from Vietnam were successfully captured by maritime authorities in Sarawak waters during an operation that commenced last Sunday.
MMEA Sarawak state director First Admiral (Maritime) Robert Teh Geok Chuan revealed that the vessels were performing illegal fishing activities when tracked by the authorities.
“When inspected, all 58 of the crews onboard who were aged 17 to 55 couldn’t produce valid identification documents during the 7.43am until 10.27am operation,” he told in a press conference yesterday.
Teh pointed out that all the four vessels were captured at 126 nautical miles northeast of Tanjung Sirik.
“The estimated value of all the seized items is RM6 million including the value of the four vessels along with 17,000 litres of diesel and fishing equipment.
“Among the items that were obtained illegally were 13 tons of fishes of various types. This sting is the result of a tip from civilians complaining on the frequent illegal fishing activities in the area of Bintulu and Miri.
“They are detained under Section 15(1)(a) of Fisheries Act 1985 and if proven guilty, the skipper will be fined RM1 million or face a maximum of two years imprisonment while the crew members will be fined RM100,000 each or face a maximum of two years imprisonment, with their fishing vessel compounded.
“The captured vessels were the last four of twelve foreign vessels captured in the year of 2019 along with fifteen other local vessels.
Teh reiterated that the MMEA is taking every complaint they receive seriously and by the operation, the agency is committed in protecting the sovereignty of Sarawak waters.
“This is our response to the criticism that being thrown at our agency by certain quarters through mass media and social media.
Teh also reminded that all media outlets to double check on any reports with the agency before broadcasting it to the public to prevent any negative perception on the agency.
Members of the public are urged to look out for any suspicious activities carried out in the country’s waters, especially those in Sarawak by contacting the Malaysia Maritime Operation Centre in Sarawak at 082-432544 or the 24-hour hotline Malaysia Emergency Response Services 999.