Incident highlights threat from encroaching foreign fishermen
KOTA TINGGI: The case of the nine Royal Malaysian Navy sailors who went missing while on operations against illegal fishermen highlights the threat posed by these foreigners who have been encroaching on Tanjung Sedili waters for five years.
Local fishermen said they have had to put up with threats from uncouth Vietnamese and Thai fishermen who are affecting their livelihoods.
Tanjung Sedili Area Fishermen Association chairman Majid Abdul Rahman said many foreigners on foreign-registered boats used trawler nets and did not care about the smaller Malaysian boats around them.
“There have been cases of Vietnamese fishermen on trawler boats encroaching on Malaysian waters over the last four to five years. These fishermen threaten our fishermen and they are kurang ajar (uncouth) because they trawl through the waters and barge through our areas while smaller boats have to make way for them.
“These Vietnamese do not care for the law as they are only doing it for the money. They don’t care about any life. They act like they own the place and they are disrespectful,” he said.
Majid said about 500 local fishermen and crew work in the waters between Pulau Pemanggil, Pulau Aur and Pulau Tinggi in northeast Johor and Desaru in southeast Johor.
Fisherman Bidin Sulong, 57, said he spotted 12 Vietnamese trawler boats in Sedili waters on May 12 and reported the matter to the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA).
“I phoned the MMEA when I spotted the Vietnamese vessels about 9am and they went to check on them. They usually come in groups and lay their nets. The MMEA is fast to act, but sometimes these Vietnamese boats will cut their trawler nets and leave them behind. This makes it hard for the authorities to nab them with evidence,” he said.
Bidin echoed Majid’s sentiments. He said there had been numerous instances when Malaysian fishermen have had to avoid the large Vietnamese boats.
“Previously, these Vietnamese fishermen were staring us down and taking off their shirts to show off when we meet them at sea.”
Bidin said the nets of local fishermen were being damaged by the foreigners’ trawler nets. “There were instances when I incurred losses of between RM1,000 and RM3,000 due to damage to my bubu and unjang nets which were scooped up when the Vietnamese fishermen used their deep sea trawler nets,” he said.
Majid said, based on their experience, the missing navy personnel could have encountered bad weather, collided with another vessel or been caught in a foreign boat’s trawler net.
“A trawler net can measure up to 100m in length and it is fastened between two boats.”
Some of the foreign trawler boats that were seized in Tanjung Sedili, Johor.
Tanjung Sedili Area Fishermen Association chairman Majid Abdul Rahman (left) says foreign fishermen have been encroaching on Malaysian waters for the last four to five years. With him is board member Mustafa Muhamad.