KUALA LUMPUR: Foreign fishing vessels found guilty of encroaching into Malaysian waters will be sunk, says Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Datuk Salahuddin Ayub.
"I agree and propose that these vessels be sunk and made into artificial reefs.
"Such action would be appropriate and is already being taken by some countries," he said when replying a question raised by Datuk Halimah Mohamed Sadique (BN-Kota Tinggi) in Parliament on Wednesday (July 3).
He said the vessels would be sunk following the conclusion of the court process.
"The director-general of the Department of Fisheries under the Agriculture Ministry will issue the order for the vessels to be sunk after the court cases," he said.
Salahuddin added that the drastic approach would be among the stern measures taken to curb fishing vessels encroaching into Malaysian waters.
"We view the illegal foreign fishing vessels encroaching on our waters as a serious problem, particularly those involving Vietnamese vessels.
"This prompted the Cabinet to order a joint operation, codename Ops Naga, involving my ministry, the Home Ministry, Defence Ministry and Foreign Affairs Ministry," he said.
According to him, a total of 52 illegal foreign fishing vessels and their crew were nabbed in the three months during the joint operation.
Earlier, Salahuddin said a total of 1,182 foreign fishing vessels had been detained over a 12-year period, of which 706 were from Vietnam.
He also informed the House that the Fisheries Act would be amended to increase the penalties against those guilty of illegally fishing in Malaysian waters.
Among the amendments, he said, was increasing the fine imposed on captains of the vessels from RM1mil to RM6mil.
Fines for vessel crew members would also be increased from RM100,000 to RM600,000.
Salahuddin added that a new penalty of RM4mil in fines would be included in the Act for illegal deep-sea fishing using local vessels.