A seized Vietnamese fishing boat is being sunk at Tompok Nosong three nautical miles off Kuala Penyu on Feb 21, 2020.
KUALA PENYU: State Agriculture and Food Industry Minister Datuk Junz Wong pledged that Vietnamese vessels will be barred from fishing in Sabah waters once the power to approve and issue deep-sea fishing licences in Sabah is returned to the State via his Ministry in line with the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63).
He plans to remove all the Vietnamese fishing boats that are entering and encroaching Sabah waters so as to protect the welfare and interests of local fishermen who have fishing boats and traditional fishermen to catch fish.
“In the past, there were 52 licensed Vietnamese boats in Sabah waters but when I entered the Ministry’s office as its Minister under the new State government, I have reduced them to only 23.
“Although the Federal Government has the power to issue deep-sea fishing licences, the State Government via our Fishery Department is working closely with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) whereby the latter would not issue the licences without getting approval from us (Sabah Government).
“I must say this is a positive development,” he said, after witnessing the sinking of a Vietnamese fishing vessel for artificial reef at Tompok Nosong, within three nautical miles off here on Friday.
He said such grave action has been a new policy of the new State government since last year to send a strong message to foreign fishing boats especially from Vietnam of the consequences for encroaching into Malaysia waters in Sabah where their boats would be confiscated and sunk at sea to be turned into artificial reefs.
Prior to enforcing the new policy, Junz said they normally auctioned the seized foreign fishing boats which was ineffective as the owners could buy them back and repeat the offence.
Junz together with his assistant Dr Daud Yusof, Kuala Penyu Assemblyman Datuk Limus Jury, State Fishery Department Director Dr Ahemad Sade, Ko-Nelayan Chairman Awang Sah bin Datuk Sahari and senior officials, witnessed the sinking at Tompok Nosong.
According to him, some Vietnamese fishing boats in Sabah waters used duplicate licences while some would encroach into Sabah to catch fish.
“Actually, we do not want the Vietnamese boats in Sabah and in the long run, we will remove all of them them once the power to issue the deep-sea fishing is returned to us,” he said.
On total number of Vietnamese boats that have been confiscated by the authorities here, Junz said about 10 Vietnamese fishing boats found encroaching Malaysia’s waters off Sabah, as of Friday, have been confiscated by concerned authorities like Malaysia Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) and State Fishery Department.
Of the 10, he said two of the boats have been disposed of, including one on Friday by sinking them at identified sea area as artificial reefs to benefit local fishermen especially the traditional ones.
The rest would also be disposed of, this year, provided all procedures have been complied with relevant authorities like the Court, Malaysia Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA), Sabah Parks, Department of Environment and Ports Authority.
“This is the second disposal of a Vietnamese fishing boat, which I witnessed at Tompok Nosong within three nautical miles from the Fishery Department jetty here which took about 25 minutes by boat.
“Several fishery personnel made holes and damaged the floor deck to let seawater flow inside it to sink the boat which started at about 10.15am and sank at 10.40am,” he said. The first disposal of a Vietnamese fishing boat was in Kudat, last year.
On effectiveness of the new policy to sink seized foreign fishing vessels that encroached into Sabah waters, Junz noted that for the past 20 months now, the prices of fish were stable including during Hari Raya festivity which he believed that local fishermen enjoy big catch of fish compared to the past policy to auction the seized foreign fishing boats that caused the prices of fish to go up.