PASIR PUTEH, Oct 1 — Kelantan Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency’s (MMEA) Ops Kuda Laut has uncovered that Vietnamese fishermen started to recruit teenagers to work on their vessels when carrying out illegal fishing in Malaysia’s territorial waters.
Its deputy director, Maritime Commander Khairun Dalilah Baharin said the matter was discovered when the agency detained two teenagers aged 14 and 17, who were among the 19 crew members of two Vietnamese fishing boats it had detained on Tuesday.
However, she said both youngsters would be taken in for further questioning to verify their ages.
She said in the incident at 6.39pm that day, MMEA who conducted the Ops Kuda Laut using the “KM Tok Bali” maritime vessel had detained two foreign fishing boats in Kelantan waters at 114 and 115 nautical miles off Tok Bali estuary.
“KM Tok Bali took about half an hour to intercept and detain the two fishing vessels.
“In the incident, the two boats fled to the Vietnamese border but were intercepted and detained at a position approximately 13.5 nautical miles from the Vietnamese border,” she told a press conference at the Kelantan MMEA jetty in Tok Bali, here, today.
She said the inspection on the first detained boat found that it was operated by a three-man crew while the second boat was operated by a 16-member crew including the skipper.
“All 19 crew members detained were Vietnamese nationals, aged between 14 and 48.
“The inspection also found that both boats did not have fishing permits under the Fisheries Act 1985 and that the crew and skippers did not possess any valid identity documents as well,” she said.
Khairun Dalilah said the total value of the seizure, including boats, fish, diesel and fishing equipment, amounted to about RM3 million.
She said the case would be investigated under Section 15 (1) (a) of the Fisheries Act 1985 for fishing or attempting to catch fish without the permission of the director-general of the Fisheries Department of Malaysia and under Section 16 (3) of the same act for failing to inform authorities by radio or facsimile regarding the country’s name, flag, route location and destination when entering Malaysian waters.
She said the two offences are punishable under Section 25 (a) of the Fisheries Act 1985 that provides for a fine of up to RM6 million on the skipper and RM600,000 on each crew member. — Bernama