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KUCHING, Aug 29: The fishing industry in Sarawak is still being openly vexed by foreign fishing vessels and the relevant authorities need to buck up, according to Progressive Democratic Party (PDP) president Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing.
Expressing disappointment with the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) and Fisheries Department in dealing with this long-standing problem in a statement today, Tiong claimed the problem had only gotten worse recently although the previous government had attempted to resolve the problem and keep it largely at bay.
“The conflict between our local fishermen and Vietnamese fishing vessels for fishing grounds is still piling pressure on our local fishing industry. Our local fishermen have faced these threats for many years.
Tiong, who is also the Bintulu MP, via a statement today, described a meeting with a boat owner called Liu who had built his own fishing boat through loan financing and had invested more than RM10 million into the business as the latter yearned to provide Sarawakians with cheaper seafood.
However, after more than a year at sea, Liu’s dreams were dashed daily with the heavy presence of foreign fishing vessels dominating Malaysian sovereign waters and taking the marine resources at will and unchecked, claimed Tiong.
To make matters worse, Tiong said these foreigners used two trawlers at the same time, a practice which is not permitted in Malaysia.
“Our local fishing boats, like Liu’s, are criminally unable to compete with the size and level of sophistication on these foreign vessels. Now, our local fishermen cannot even guarantee their own safety when they do go out to sea, much less know they can catch enough fish to meet their targets.
“As their sizes are often smaller compared to the foreign vessels, they are in danger of intimidation tactics such as being rammed or met with physical threats. Any warning to report their actions to the authorities are merely being laughed at. Moreover, reports by our local fishermen to the marine enforcement authorities are typically ignored,” Tiong claimed.
He added that these Vietnamese fishing boats are openly fishing in the Malaysian waters and it is known that there is a ‘mother ship’ near oil rigs that will wait to collect the catches by these smaller vessels.
“Doesn’t the MMEA care to investigate this audacious violation of our maritime borders? MMEA had stated that it has despatched helicopters to patrol areas where there are reports of intrusions but failed to detect any foreign fishing boats. However, local fishermen have witnessed these helicopters overhead while they were surrounded by Vietnamese vessels at the same time.
“It is extremely incomprehensible why these helicopters crew could not see these vessels. Did they use telescopes or are these fly-bys just a staged show?” Tiong questioned, adding that if MMEA had seriously pursued its duties, they would see there are actions to be taken.
According to Tiong, at only 30 nautical miles into the sea, local fishermen have reported seeing foreign vessels fishing for the state’s marine resources.
In his attempts to help the fishermen, Tiong said he had specifically contacted the police Criminal Investigation Department head and he thanked the director for opening an investigation into these threats under Section 506 of the Penal Code for criminal intimidation.
At the same time, he said the Ministry of Agriculture and Agro-based Industry needs to reach out to the people to explain the federal government’s plan to resolve this ‘dire issue’ as failure to do so is tantamount to not providing safety and protection to local fishermen and wasting taxpayers’ money. — DayakDaily