Lure of the much prized sea cucumber


KOTA TINGGI: A huge mothership sits in international waters while dozens of smaller boats crewed by Vietnamese fishermen, some armed with guns, encroach on Malaysian territory in search of a prize catch – sea cucumbers, which are abundant in the waters off eastern Johor.

Roaming nearly 1,400km from home and at sea for up to two months, including the time spent fishing off Sedili here, the fishermen are guided by state-of-the-art navigation systems.

When their holds are full, they return to the waiting mothership to fill its freezers and cold rooms with sea cucumbers and fish.

At the end of their “tour” the whole fleet returns to Vietnam with tonnes of delicacies that are worth millions, especially in China.

The growing issue of encroachment is causing serious problems for local fishermen, who are intimidated by their bigger vessels and weapons.

The raiders also use pukat harimau trawler nets, which cause massive environmental destruction as they scrape along the seabed and damage corals.

The local market for fish has been affected, with prices rising by more than 50% on average since last year.

Ikan kembung (mackerel), which used to cost about RM6 per kg, has shot up to between RM10 and RM12.

Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) southern region director First Admiral Adon Shalan said these boats were now a problem as their skippers knew the loopholes to stay out of trouble.

“Every time they see our patrol boats, they immediately head to international waters to avoid being caught,” he said.

However, he added, MMEA had some success in detaining Vietna­mese fishing vessels and their crew in the past few months.

MMEA had also stepped up its operations against encroaching foreign fishing vessels but Adm Adon believed that the syndicate to which they belonged had local informers spying for them.

“Each time we managed to locate the vessels and deployed assets to catch them, they would immediately leave for international waters,” he said.

“We do not have the jurisdiction to catch them as they are in international waters.

“And even when we do catch them, their syndicate has pockets deep enough to appoint lawyers for them,” he said, adding that the fishermen were also able to pay the fines imposed.

He added that MMEA had gathered information that some of these crews had parang and firearms on board.

“We hope the new Abu Bakar Maritime Base at Middle Rock will help us monitor and act against illegal activities in Johor waters,” he said.

A source said MMEA has advised the fishing community on the eastern side of Johor not to engage the Vietnamese vessels in any way for their own safety.

On May 23, the Johor Fisheries Department detained 22 Vietnamese fishermen, aged between 19 and 45, and seized RM5mil worth of sea cucumbers from three boats.

The source said serious government action is needed because fines alone did not deter the offenders.

“We need to seize their boats and jail them for committing economic sabotage,” the source said.

Article type: metered
User Type: anonymous web
User Status:
Campaign ID: 46
Cxense type: free
User access status: 3

News , bureaus

   

Next In Nation

EMCO in two localities in Sarawak lifted
Teenage girl dies after private party in Alor Setar, nine arrested
Call of duty: Melaka CID chief cuts short prayers, rushes to crime scene in Baju Raya
Firecrackers hurled at police in Sentul
Alor Gajah police say viral photo of authorities compounding homeowner RM50,000 is fake
Covid-19: Eight new clusters, five related to workplaces
Police monitoring 'Raya posts' on social media
MCO violations: 435 issued compounds, five remanded on Wednesday (May 12)
MCO: Several motorists told to turn back at Sungai Buloh toll
Sarawak police to investigate allegations of misconduct involving senior cop

Stories You'll Enjoy


Vouchers