Terengganu State Fishermen Association chairman Mat Yassim Mohamed. FILE PIC

KUALA TERENGGANU: Fisheries enforcement authorities have been urged to emulate Indonesia's method of tackling the problem of foreign fishing boats encroaching national waters.

State Fishermen Association chairman Mat Yassim Mohamed said in Indonesia, all seized foreign fishing boats are sunk or blown up using explosives once the court finds the operator and crew guilty of fishing illegally in their waters.

In Malaysia, however, only boats lighter than 70 tonnes are sunk or destroyed – heavier boats are auctioned off, which unfortunately allows the original owners to buy back their vessels, with the help of locals acting as middlemen.

"This allows the foreign operators to (resume) their illegal activities using (new) crew and to continue encroaching an exclusive economic zone (EEZ). They have no fear of being arrested by our enforcement authorities,” he said.

Yassim added that authorities should also be strict on the employment of foreign fishing crew by local fishermen, as there is the great potential of them breaking the conditions of their license and selling their catch to foreign fishing vessels at sea.

He said foreign crew members are a serious threat to the livelihood of local fishermen because they tend to repeat their offence despite being arrested many times.

He added that the authorities should also look out for “cloned” registrations used by foreign fishing vessels to escape detection.

Yassim said most of the association’s 8,000 members have complained about the encroachment of foreign trawlers which have destroyed “unjam” and artificial reefs known to attract large shoals of commercial fishes.

“To escape detection, these illegal foreign operators would raise the Jalur Gemilang and disguise their registration numbers to look like those used by the boats of local deep sea fishermen,” he added.

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