Encroachment by Vietnamese fishing boats becoming more rampant: MMEA

KUANTAN: The encroachment by Vietnamese fishing boats in waters off the east coast of the peninsula and Sarawak is becoming more rampant, Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) director-general Datuk Zulkifli Abu Bakar (pix) said today.

He said this was reflected by the increase in the number of Vietnamese fishing boats that were detained in the country this year, totalling 102 so far, from 62 boats in 2015 and 65 boats last year.

"The encroachment by foreign boats in the east coast of the peninsula does not only involve Kelantan, Terengganu and Pahang, but also Tanjung Sedili, Johor.

"In Sarawak, it involves waters off Kuching, Miri and Bintulu," he told a media conference after witnessing the handing over of duties by outgoing East Region Maritime director Datuk Mamu Said Alee, who is leaving the service on compulsory retirement tomorrow, to his successor, North Region Maritime director First Admiral Zulkarnain Mohd Omar here today.

He said the foreign fishermen were also becoming more bold in conducting fishing activities in Malaysian waters by using trawl net, which cause destruction to the seabed and coral reefs, and clone boats, as well as dared to offer bribes to MMEA officers when they were detained.

He expressed the need to increase MMEA assets, such as the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to enable the agency to combat encroachment by foreign fishermen, as well as to destroy the seized foreign vessels to signal the Malaysian government's seriousness to address the problem.

Zulkifli hoped the court would also speed up prosecution of cases involving foreign fishermen to address congestion at the vessel detention centres in Tok Bali in Kelantan, Kemaman in Terengganu, Tanjung Gemok in Pahang and Tanjung Sedili in Johor.

"The (seized) boats are becoming a liability to MMEA, especially during the monsoon season, as they had to be tied to avoid them from being washed away or destroyed by the waves," he added. — Bernama