KUALA LUMPUR: A multi-agency task force, spearheaded by the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) has scored a series of successes by nabbing 25 Vietnamese vessels and detaining 123 of their crew for illegal activities.
The Home Ministry, in a statement, said the seizure and arrests came through the two-week old Ops Naga, which began on May 2.
The air and sea operations are being conducted through a collaboration with the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) in Kelantan, Terengganu and Pahang.
Ops Naga is also supported by the Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN), the police’s marine and air units, the Fisheries Department, the Immigration Department and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).
Ops Naga saw a total of 226 Vietnamese vessels screened over suspicion of carrying out illegal fishing and encroachment into Malaysia’s Exclusive Economic Zone.
The New Straits Times learnt that the 25 captured vessels are now berthed at the MMEA jetties in Kuala Terengganu, Tok Bali and Kemaman in Terengganu.
The ministry said Ops Naga will proceed to ensure Malaysia’s sovereign waters are not intruded and local fishermen can carry out their activities without hindrance and competition from foreigners.
“We believe we are tightening the noose on the errant Vietnamese trawlers,” read the statement.
The ministry said those nabbed would be charged under Section 15(1)(a) of the Fisheries Act 1985 for trespassing and illegal fishing, Section 6(1)(c) of the Immigration Act for no identification documents and Section 14(3)(b) of the Fisheries Act for falsifying documents.
Owing to the seriousness of the illegal Vietnamese fishing menace, Home Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin had on April 25 announced the formation of the multi-agency task force that encompasses agencies under the purview of the Defence Ministry, as well as the Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Ministry.
To better deal with the situation, two sub-committees have been established for the task force.
These sub-committees concern law enforcement, and policy and legal affairs.