KOTA KINABALU: The Fisheries Department and Immigration Department have joined forces with the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) in conducting special operations to eradicate undocumented immigrants, illegal use of pump boats and fish bombing activities in the State.
Since the deaths of the three divers, believed to be the first case of recreational divers killed by fish bombing activities off Semporna waters, the marine police and Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) in particular have stepped up operations statewide.
An operation was carried out in the waters off Likas Bay and Usukan Bay here and in Kota Belud, respectively, following information channelled by scuba divers in the areas identified as fish blasting hotspots.
The operation also led the enforcement team to the General Market and several roadside stalls in Kota Belud where bombed fish are purportedly sold.
The raid resulted in the seizure of 30kg of fish of various species, said MMEA Sabah Director Rear Admiral Kamaruszaman Abu Hassan. “The confiscated fish will be sent for further analysis to determine whether they died due to underwater turbulence or bomb shards caused by fish blasting,” he told a media conference here Thursday.
He said enforcement efforts in identifying the culprits are made tougher especially when suspects flee upon realising their presence, citing the raid in Kota Belud market where fish mongers and fish suppliers fled at the sight of the team.
As for the operations in Kota Kinabalu, the team confiscated two sampans believed used for fish blasting activities, based on the tools found in the boats.
The boats were found off the waters of Pulau Gaya, about 0.2 nautical miles off Pulau Plompong and 0.4 nautical miles off Tanjung Logong, here. The team was, however, unable to catch those onboard the sampans after they jumped into the sea and swam towards shore. Kamaruszaman also disclosed that apart from fish blasting, MMEA also detected several instances where sodium cyanide was used to catch fish.
He said it was also understood that sea gypsies have also resorted to blasting to get fish supply, adding that an on-going probe is being carried out to determine where the fish bomb-making materials come from. He said they are also in the midst of investigating whether syndicates are involved in supplying fish blasting equipment.
To date, the MMEA has recorded a total of 14 arrests since 2018, out of which 11 were reported last year and three this year. A total of 19 individuals have been convicted for fish blasting while the rest of the suspects managed to flee.
Kamaruszaman urged the maritime community to prioritise safety while at sea and to channel information to them via 088-260175. A crackdown on bombed fish, including statewide inspections in wet markets, was also carried out earlier by Sabah marine police and the Fisheries Department.