Teh (standing left) monitors the Vietnamese crew members. Photos: Ramidi Subari

KUCHING: Malaysia Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) last Friday seized two Vietnamese fishing vessels, about 221 nautical miles north of Muara Tebas, for fishing in Sarawak waters without permit.

MMEA Sarawak region director First Admiral (Maritime) Robert Teh Geok Chuan said the fishing vessels were spotted around 7.30am during an Ops Naga Timur patrol.

“When the vessels were inspected, MMEA found 24 crew members, including four captains, on board.

“Aged 21 to 55, all did not possess any valid documents,” he told a press conference at Tun Abang Salahuddin Maritime Complex (Komtas), Muara Tebas yesterday.

Teh said the modus operandi of the vessels was to harvest whatever they could from the sea.

Teh showing the locations where the fishing vessels were caught during the press conference.

“The vessels will distance each other (one mile apart) to hasten the process of collecting the sea harvests,” he added.

Teh pointed out that the items seized last Friday — two vessels, two tonnes of fish and 20,000 litres of diesel — were valued at RM2.5 million.

“The detained Vietnamese crew members were brought to Komtas. They underwent Covid-19 screening tests at the Petra Jaya health clinic as a precaution.

“So far, the crew members have not tested positive for Covid-19,” he said.

The arrests were made under Section 15(1)(a) of Fisheries Act 1985 for fishing without permit in Sarawak waters. If convicted, the captains will be fined RM6 million and jailed for two years each while the crew members will be fined RM600,000 and jailed for two years each.

Teh (standing second right) with Capt Zin Azmah Mat Yunus inspecting the detained fishermen.

Throughout the movement control order (MCO), Teh said 13 foreign fishing vessels were evicted from the state’s waters and their equipment destroyed.

“However starting June 24, MMEA has been given permission to arrest foreign fishing vessels and to date, MMEA Sarawak managed to detain six vessels from Vietnam and another one from Indonesia.

“51 Vietnamese and five Indonesians were detained while the total value of seizure was estimated to be more than RM6.7 million,” he added.

Teh explained that foreign vessels were able to stay in Sarawak waters for three months.

They will hand over their catches to their mother boats which re-supply them their rations and oil. These mother boats are believed to be located somewhere near the country’s border.

“In Sarawak, we have not seized any mother boat so far. But in Malaya, MMEA has seized several mother boats.

“These foreign fishing vessels are rarely in the Beting Patinggi Ali area (BPA). They are mostly near to Mukah or Tanjung Sirik, about 50 to 60 nautical miles away from the shore,” added Teh.

Teh with the seized Vietnam fishing vessels.