Amanah: Follow Indonesian example, burn illegal fishing boats

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KUALA LUMPUR: Fishermen have urged the government to take Indonesia as an example and destroy boats when handling illegal fishing in Malaysian waters, claims Amanah’s Raja Kamarul Bahrin Shah Raja Ahmad.

The Kuala Terengganu MP said that when he visited the fishermen from his constituency last week they had suggested that the government destroy the boats of the fishermen who had carried out illegal fishing activities.

“When these fishermen were found to have breached their waters, the Indonesian authorities simply destroyed the boats.

“The boats were either burned or destroyed using explosives. There is zero tolerance for illegal fishing.

“That is what our local fishermen are hoping the Malaysian government will do too,” he told a news conference in Parliament today.

In April, Indonesia destroyed 81 mostly foreign boats that had been caught illegally fishing in its waters, bringing to more than 300 the number of boats sunk since President Joko Widodo launched a battle against the poaching of fish in Indonesian waters, in 2014.

Raja Kamarul said that he had visited the fisherman in Kuala Terengganu following the reported arrest of 10 personnel of the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).

It was reported previously that two Vietnamese – a man and a woman – as well as the latter’s husband, have also been charged in court in Terengganu for attempting to give a RM100,000 bribe to an MACC officer for safe passage for two of their boats that had been confiscated.

The Vietnamese man had admitted to offering the bribe and if found guilty could face up to 20 years in prison and a fine.

Raja Kamarul said that when he had spoken to the local fishermen about the arrest of the Vietnamese individuals, he was surprised by their reaction.

“They said they will go in for a few months or weeks, then these foreign fishermen will be freed and all these boats will be released and allowed to fish in the deep sea again,” he said.

Raja Kamarul had previously claimed that a syndicate’s “godfather” is protecting foreign fishermen who intrude into Malaysian waters to fish illegally.

He said that “people at the top” involved in the syndicate were still free while those caught so far were mere “Ikan bilis” (small fry).

“The syndicate has long been established in Malaysia and has a godfather who wields influence and holds a high position,” he said.

Raja Kamarul said he did not believe the individuals arrested had the means to form the syndicate on their own without assistance from “people at the top”.

He said the foreign fishermen were able to offer bribes of up to RM100,000 to maritime enforcement officers, and this pointed to the existence of wealthy people at the top funding the syndicate.

“In addition, the fact that a Vietnamese woman could obtain a Datuk title shows she has connections in high places.

“The Vietnamese illegal fishermen also seemed to know how to evade arrest after local fishermen made reports about their presence. This indicates there’s a leak on any enforcement action,” he said.

Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said recently Malaysia was believed to be losing 980,000 tonnes of fish worth RM3 billion to RM6 billion a year due to illegal fishing by foreigners.

Zahid said only an estimated 50% of the fish caught in Malaysian waters landed in the country, while the balance was not reported, pointing to theft by foreign fishermen.

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