KOTA KINABALU: The burning of vessels, hefty fines and threat of imprisonment have not deterred foreign fishing boats from encroaching on Malaysian waters, especially in the peninsula, the minister in charge of the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency said.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Dr Shahidan Kassim said foreign vessels were getting more aggressive by improving their tactics, all because of the promise of an abundant catch.
“They are becoming more daring and are coming in larger numbers. They now operate with motherships, each leading a group of smaller boats,” he said.
Dr Shahidan, when visiting the patrol vessel KM Arau at the Sepanggar Naval Base yesterday, said foreign vessels ignored warnings from Malaysian authorities.
“These foreign fishermen even dare to cut off the nets of our fishermen,” he said.
Dr Shahidan said the navy would work with other security agencies to tackle the issue.
Among the approaches that would be taken were adding more assets and increasing patrols and security presence, most probably in waters off Terengganu, Pahang and Kelantan, he added.
As for Sabah, he said the incidence of foreign vessels encroaching on Malaysian waters was considered under control.
He also said that foreign vessels also preferred Malaysian waters because it was safer here than other countries, like the Philippines.
Meanwhile, Dr Shahidan said that cases of Malaysian fishing companies hiring Vietnamese vessels and foreign workers were also a cause for concern.
Local companies found operating with expired licences would be penalised between RM500 and RM1,500 when caught for the first three times, while foreign captains arrested would be fined up to RM1mil, and crew, RM100,000.
“The foreigners arrested will always choose to go to jail, while local companies always pay the fine since the amount is so low,” he said.