Detained illegal fishing vessels, foreign crew operated using local cargo vessel permit

The detained Vietnamese crew is seen at the MMEA jetty at the Tun Abang Salahuddin complex near Muara Tebas, Kuching.

KUCHING, May 25: The Sarawak Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) caught two foreign vessels with foreign crews illegally fishing in Malaysian waters under the guise of a local company.

The seizure was made on May 23 around 6pm, some 170 nautical miles off of Kuching’s shores by a state MMEA patrol boat, which conducted a search on both vessels named One United Lima and One United 37 respectively.

Upon checking, the vessels’ 47 crew members aged between 23 and 59 were found to be Vietnamese and failed to provide valid travel documents as well as a Fisheries Department permit to fish in the state’s waters.

MMEA Sarawak Operations director Capt Shahref Steve Mac Queen Abdullah told reporters this afternoon that the vessels were operating using a cargo vessel licence under Labuan registered company One United.

“We will investigate further the locally registered company and ensure that whoever is involved would be charged in court.

“This case would be investigated under the Fisheries Act 1985, as it involves a local company using cargo license to fish illegally with foreign crews and vessels,” he said.

All in all, the total value of seizures including the two vessels and some 80 tonnes of fish was estimated at around RM4.5 million.

Shahref said the foreign fishermen might have thought that the MMEA’s patrols would be more lax during the Ramadan fasting month but their gamble proved wrong because MMEA would remain active patrolling the Sarawak waters around the clock even while fasting.

“This time these Vietnamese fishing vessels made a wrong judgement. They thought MMEA does not operate as much during the fasting Ramadan period. We are always working around the clock doing patrols and operations,” he said. — DayakDaily