SANDAKAN: Six Vietnamese fishermen including one skipper were arrested for illegally gathering sea produce in Malaysian waters near Pulau Jambongan, Beluran.
Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency ((MMEA) Sandakan Maritime Zone Deputy Operations Director, Maritime Commander Mohd Khairulanuar Abd Majid, said the fishermen were arrested by APMM personnel at 23.4 nautical miles north east of Tanjung Ayam, Pulau Jambongan last Tuesday at 5.22 pm.
“MMEA managed to intercept the Vietnamese vessel after a 45-minute chase during high wind and rough seas.
“The fishermen aged 14 to 46 were believed to have trespassed into Malaysian waters to gather sea cucumbers illegally,” he told a media conference here today.
Mohd Khairulanuar said 600 kg of sea cucumber were found on the vessel but a more disturbing find was the equipment they used, which included a rake, which had been banned in Malaysia for harming the ecosystem and marine life.
Mohd Khairulanuar said that the fishermen had been detained while the boat and the sea cucumber collecting equipment along with the catch estimated to be worth RM650,000 were confiscated.
He said that the case was being investigated under the Fisheries Act 1985 which carried a fine of not more than RM6,000,000 against the skipper and RM600,000 against the crew members if found guilty.
They are also being investigated under the Immigration Act 1959/63 for having no identity document, which carries a fine of not more than RM10,000 or a jail term of not more than five years or both and are punishable by a maximum of six strokes of the cane, if convicted.
Asked about the Vietnamese fishermen who are getting more bold in encroaching into Malaysian waters on the east coast of Sabah, Mohd Khairulanuar believed that the fishermen took the risk of sailing further to avoid Operasi Naga which is a special operation mounted to curb their activities in the peninsular.