Stricter enforcement needed to curb RM7 bln lost annually to illegal fishing

Chong Chieng Jen

KUCHING, July 17: Stampin MP Chong Chieng Jen wants enforcement to safeguard national waters, especially in Sarawak, to be intensified as Malaysia is losing up to RM 7 billion worth of fish and maritime resources annually to illegal foreign fishing vessels.

“It is estimated that our country loses up to RM 7 billion worth of fish and maritime resources annually before due to these foreign fishing vessels trespassing into our waters and using illegal methods to fish and deplete our resources.

“That is why drastic and effective measures have been taken by the federal government in an effort to address this issue,” said Chong in a press statement.

He said the efforts included a multi-agency operation called ‘Ops Naga’ that was started on May 2, 2019 to catch these illegal fishing boats.

“Since then we have been informed that up to 80 boats have been seized and their crew arrested. Those nabbed would be charged under Section 15(1)(a) of the Fisheries Act 1985 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.

“That is why we urged the ministry to intensify such efforts especially in the waters around Sarawak to address this issue for the benefit of our local fishermen. The Minister of Defence (Mohamad Sabu, popularly known as Mat Sabu) has given a positive response and also will bring it up in Cabinet to extend the operations as well as intensify it to give greater assurance to our local fishermen,” said Chong who is also Deputy Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister.

He said on top of that, Mat Sabu also committed to discussing this issue with ministers from other neighbouring countries at the General Border Committee (GBC) meeting that will be held in October to resolve certain issues such as disputed maritime boundaries between various countries and deployment of military joint patrols, amongst other things.

“We also proposed other long-term measures that the ministry can take including incorporating new technology to help in carrying out their enforcement, on top of increasing and upgrading their current assets.

“We thus proposed to them to increase all these proper and modern maritime assets including deploying modern scanners and even military surveillance UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) to watch our borders especially in Sarawak and the borders of the South China Sea.

“This includes advance surveillance technology that employs innovative, integrated and actionable intelligence across all department and agencies to create Maritime Domain Awareness to better monitor our maritime borders,” said Chong who is Sarawak Pakatan Harapan chief.

He said this was important as many of illegal trawlers and fishing boats using more high tech in order to avoid detection as well.

“We will continue to follow up on this issue and hope that a long-term solution can be sorted out amicably between Malaysia and neighbouring countries that will not just benefit and improve the security of our people, but also for the interest of the local fishing industry that will help propel our economy forward,” said Chong.

Chong urged for the multi-agency task force, spearheaded by the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) to intensify efforts under ‘Ops Naga’ to guard the sovereignty of national maritime borders, especially those around Sarawak not just against security threats, but also against the intrusion of illegal fishing boats especially from Vietnam that has affected the local fishing industry.

He said this was one of the few proposals presented during a meeting with Mat Sabu, Deputy Defence Minister Liew Chin Tong, Royal Malaysian Navy Chief Admiral Datuk Mohd Reza Mohd Sany, and many other high ranking military officials by Sarawakian elected representatives including Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii and Pending assemblyperson Violet Yong.

“The meeting was a follow-up on our efforts to raise the concerns and even security risks faced by us here in Sarawak especially the local fishermen who had been affected by the increasing intrusion of illegal fishing boats into our waters and the stealing of our maritime resources,” said Chong. — DayakDaily