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Sabah is being robbed of seafood
Published on: Sunday, August 21, 2016
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Sabah is being robbed of seafood
Kota Kinabalu: Vietnamese fishermen appear to be more desperate to source for seafood and are conducting illegal fishing activities in Malaysian waters through deceit. According to local fishermen, about eight Vietnamese vessels bearing State issued fishing 'MK' licences were spotted casting their nets near the city's coast, about 44 nautical miles near Pulau Mengalum, on Aug. 8.

'MK' signifies one of the five coastal fishing regions, 'Menumbok', said Kota Kinabalu Fishing Boats Owner Association President Simon Hong (pic).

He said local fishermen are concerned over how foreign fishermen were allowed to compete directly with local fishermen, when coastal fishing licences were only issued to locals. He said not only were they encroaching, they were also using methods deemed illegal and unsustainable to haul their catch.

"Our boats were returning to the city jetty when the Vietnamese boats were spotted. Their methods involved hauling their catch using two boats with the nets stretched out underwater. I believe the Sabah Government had never issued licences to such coastal fishing techniques," he said. Although, the vessels bore the State's coastal fishing licences, Hong maintained they were foreign, saying not only were they boats designed for deep-sea fishing, they were also not locally made.

Apart from this, the crews were all Vietnamese, he said. It is understood the appetite for fish is growing in the Asian region, coupled with shrinking stocks, and this is driving fishermen further and further from their shores to source for supply.

Vietnamese fishermen are forced to look elsewhere for fish due to heavy pollution of its waters by a Taiwanese steel plant operating in Vietnam under a joint venture with the Vietnamese Government seen as a major scandal.

Besides, Indonesia has embarked on a no-nonsense policy under new President Jokowi whereby vessels of other nations caught fishing illegaly in its waters are seized and set on fire, with the crew forced to witness it so that they can return to their employers and report what they saw.

Several Malaysian fishing boats have been burnt since the policy came into effect in January this year as Indonesia said it has a large population to feed and would not stand by idly and watch vessels from other nations conduct illegal fishing activities that would rob it of billions of ringgit in seafood annually.

Hong said a report was immediately lodged with the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) over the boats on Aug 11. However, the vessels were still there when they dispatched a boat on Aug 15 to check on their presence suggesting inaction on the part of local enforcers.

"Sabah has an abundant supply of fish which are cheaper in terms of prices, but the government must stop this.

"If they are allowed to continue with this method of fishing, the seafood supply in our waters will be depleted in six months," said Hong, adding that he is concerned over how foreign fishermen could get their hands on such licences.

Towards this end, Hong hoped the Government would consider freezing the issuance of coastal fishing licences to foreigners, adding that the Vietnamese have been known for using unsustainable methods when it comes to fishing.

Meanwhile, Sabah Anglers Association President Datuk Wilfred Lingham said the boats look big and could be over 45 Gross Registered Tonnage (GRT) meant for deep sea fishing. He said fishing licences for such boats are only issued by the Federal Maritime Department.

"MK licence stands for Menumbok, but the sub-district has no Maritime Department Office and the State Ports and Harbour Department there is not authorised to issue licences for boats above 45 GRT," he pointed out.


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