KOTA KINABALU: The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) has impounded a foreign vessel carrying five Vietnamese fishermen about 17.1 nautical miles from Mantanani island, off Kota Belud on the north-western coast of the state.
Sabah and Labuan Maritime director First Admiral Datuk Mohd Rosli Abdullah said the boat and the crew members, aged between 17 and 40, have been brought to Sepanggar Maritime Jetty for further investigation after the incident on Wednesday (April 14) morning.
In a statement here on Thursday (April 15), First Admiral Mohd Rosli said the capture was following a strategic framework designed under Op Naga Timur and Op Kuda Laut aimed at curbing foreign vessels encroaching on Sabah's waters.
One of the strategies is to identify potential hotspots for such breaches within Sabah and Labuan waters.
"Mantanani island (waters) has been identified as one of the areas targeted by foreign fishing boats, especially those from Vietnam, to cast their nets and harvest the country's seafood illegally," he added.
The suspects are being detained for offences under the Fisheries Act 1985 (being in Malaysia's fishing waters without the Fisheries director's permission) and Immigration Act 1959/63 for failure to provide any valid identification documents.
First Admiral Mohd Rosli said the skipper can be fined up to RM6mil while the crew can be fined RM600,000 each, or jailed not more than two years, or both, if they are found guilty.
In 2019 alone, Sabah MMEA recorded 12 captures of Vietnamese boats while three more were seized and two were chased away last year.
"The four captures so far this year were in Labuan, Kudat and Kota Kinabalu waters.
"The operation to curb such foreign fishing vessel encroachments will continue from time to time," he added.