Foreign fishermen nabbed by the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency in Kuala Terengganu in May. FILE PIC
Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek

THE Fisheries Department has introduced several measures to counter the abuse of deep-sea fishing licences, which is believed to have led to the depletion of the country’s marine resources. 

Among the measures are imposing stricter licensing procedures and monitoring process.

Agriculture and Agro-based Industries Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek said only original vessels used for licence application or renewal were allowed to fish in Malaysian waters.

“Another measure is to compel deep-sea fishermen to land a minimum amount of catch per year as prerequisite for the annual licence renewal,” he said.

For example, trawling net (pukat tunda) fishermen must land at least 250 metric tonnes of catch per year, while purse seine net (pukat jerut) and gill net (pukat rawai) fishermen must land a minimum catch of 350 metric tonnes and 100 metric tonnes respectively annually. 

“Also, the Mobile Transceiver Unit equipment used in deep-sea fishing vessels must have an active rate of at least 80 per cent to qualify for licence renewal.”

Shabery said foreigners in cahoots with local counterparts were responsible for robbing the country’s marine resources.

He said the renting out of licences by local businessmen to foreign fishermen was probably the most common practice committed by the unscrupulous industry players at the expense of Malaysian marine resources.

“We also discovered there have been cases where the catch is transferred to foreign vessels at high sea.

“There are also reports that the landing of the entire catch from our waters took place at jetties in foreign countries.

“On top of this, we have foreign fishing vessels intruding our waters,” he told the New Sunday Times

Based on the Fisheries Department statistics, 454 licences has been cancelled since a legalisation programme for deep-sea fishing vessels was carried out in 2011. 

To ensure deep-sea fishermen land their catch only in Malaysian jetties, Shabery said the department had installed closed-circuit television cameras at the Tok Bali jetty in Kelantan.

He said the department had introduced the access card system for deep sea vessels at four fish-landing ports, namely at LKIM Tok Bali in Kelantan, LKIM Kuantan in Pahang, LKIM Kuala Perlis in Perlis and Tanjung Manis in Sarawak. 

“Under the system starting May this year, the activities of vessels that call at the four ports will be monitored. This will reduce any chances of ‘leakages’ in the sea.

“To improve our monitoring, we have also installed the Automatic Identification System in  Zone B trawling net vessels. So far, 513 vessels have been fitted with the device,” he said.

Shabery said maritime enforcement and monitoring activities by the Malaysia Maritime Enforcement Agency based on the National Blue Ocean Strategy would be strengthened. 

From 2014 up to last month, he said, the department had made 1,305 arrests under the Fisheries Act 1985. 

According to Shabery, the department was upgrading its 40 patrolling boats and acquiring 30 new engines with a combined cost of RM4.7 million.

In the regional front, Shabery said the ministry was seeking to strengthen its regional cooperation with the Asean Sectoral Working Group on Fisheries and Regional Plan of Action. 

“Malaysia has appealed to Asean nations to deny entry to fishing vessels from our country.

“We have resorted to using a bilateral platform with Vietnam and Thailand,” he said.

Under Section 16 (3) of the Fisheries Act 1985, fishing in Malaysian waters without permission is liable to a fine of up to RM100,000 per each crew member, while the captain can be fined up to RM1 million.