Sea enforcers put the bite on toothfish poachers

KOTA TINGGI: A Nigeria-registered vessel has been detained and some 330 tonnes of Antarctic toothfish confiscated.

The seizure by the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency, the biggest this year, is believed to be worth more than RM23mil, as the present price of the fish is RM70 per kg.

The antarctic toothfish (Dissostichus mawsoni) is a species of cod icefish found in the Southern Ocean.

The deep-sea fishing ship has long been suspected of poaching in Antarctic waters.

Also detained were a Kiribati-registered tugboat and a barge about 3.5 nautical miles south-east of Tanjung Penyusup, near here, at 1pm on May 9, said MMEA District Seven commander Maritime Captain Amran Daud.

“They were transferring several containers from the ship into the barge which was equipped with a crane,” he said at a news conference at the MMEA district headquarters in Tanjung Sedili, near here, yesterday.

MMEA detained 30 Indonesians, seven Senegalese, four Spaniards, two Chileans, two Indian nationals, a Bangladeshi and a Singaporean in the seizure. The crewmen were between 22 and 52.

“The agency received information about a deep-sea fishing vessel on its way to our waters from the southern Indian Ocean.

“There was something suspicious because the vessel and the other two boats were very close to each other. The vessels had anchored without any approval from the Marine Department,” Capt Amran said.

He added that investigations also showed that the ship had been used frequently for fishing in the Indian Ocean near Antarctica since 1997.

It had also changed its name and port of registration several times to confuse the authorities.

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