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KOTA KINABALU: The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) will put more focus on Vietnamese mother ships at the borders to tackle foreign fishing vessels trespassing on Sabah waters.

MMEA’s KM Arau commanding officer Captain Mohd Zawawi Abdullah said these Vietnamese fishing vessels would usually stay at sea between two and three months.

“The fishermen’s modus operandi would be to transfer their catch and get food, fuel and logistics necessities from those mother ships on the Philippines waters.

“Whenever there is opportunity, those fishing vessels will try to go into Sabah waters to fish,” he said during a press conference, adding that MMEA would have to beef up its enforcement activities.

Mohd Zawawi added the authorities had recently seen more enVietnamese fishing vessels in Sabah waters as compared to foreign vessels from the Philippines and Indonesia.

The authorities also believed it is unlikely that locals are associated with Vietnamese fishermen as their food, logistics supplies and other necessities are from Vietnam.

Fishermen showed their catches from Kudat Waters to Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency personnel. The 5-crew Vietnamese fishing vessel had encroached Malaysian waters on June 17 and caught 450 kilogramme of tuna fish off Balambangan island in Kudat.

He said the Vietnamese fishermen have also been specifically targeting yellowfin tuna at secluded spots which local fishermen rarely go.

“It is learned that these Vietnamese mother ships will bring the catches to other countries (instead of Malaysia or Vietnam).

“They usually sell them to Japan, Korea or Taiwan as there is a high demand for tuna in those countries,” he added.

Meanwhile, Mohd Zawawi said Sabah and Labuan MMEA had detained a Vietnamese fishing boat off Balambangan island near Kudat with five crew members onboard.

“The five, aged between 24 and 53, was detained for encroaching on Malaysian waters and fishing without a valid permit.

“The authorities also seized 450 kilogrammes of tuna and the boat, both worth between RM300,000 and RM400,000. The boat has been towed to the jetty here for further investigations,” he said, adding that within the same week, another Vietnamese fishing vessel with 1.3 tonnes of fish was also detained.

Both arrests which occured during MMEA’s first series of Op Pagar Laut this year, will be investigated under Section 15(1)(a) of the Fisheries Act 1985.

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Vietnamese fishermen gestured Malaysia maritime Enforcement Agency personnel that their food supply are from their country.
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