KOTA KINABALU: The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) has seized a foreign fishing vessel with five Vietnamese crew members, some 17 nautical miles off Mantanani island.
Sabah and Labuan Maritime director First Admiral Datuk Mohd Rosli Abdullah said the vessel and its crew members, including the skipper, aged between 17 and 40, were taken to the Sepanggar Maritime jetty for further investigations after they were held on Wednesday morning.
The vessel was found fishing in Malaysian waters without permission while the crew members were unable to provide valid identification papers.
In a statement yesterday, Mohd Rosli said the operation was part of a strategic framework designed under Op Naga Timur and Op Kuda Laut to stop foreign vessels from encroaching into Sabah’s waters.
One of the strategies was to identify potential hotspots for such illegal activities within Sabah and Labuan’s waters.
“Mantanani island (waters) has been identified as one of the areas chosen by foreign fishing boats, especially from Vietnam, to harvest the country’s seafood illegally, ” he added.
He said the skipper could be fined a maximum of RM6mil while the crew could be compounded RM600,000 or face a two-year jail sentence, or both, if found guilty.
In 2019, Sabah MMEA seized 12 Vietnamese boats while three other vessels were captured last year and two chased away at sea.
“The four vessels capture so far this year were from Labuan, Kudat, and Kota Kinabalu waters.
“The operation to curb such foreign fishing vessels encroaching into our waters will continue from time to time, ” he said.