1:47 pm - Saturday November 25, 2017

MMEA wants two ‘motherships’, UAVs to combat illegal fishing by foreigners

APMM / ZULKIFLI ABU BAKAR

MO,20/10/217, KUANTAN: Having two ‘motherships’ would help the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) win court cases against foreign fishermen it detains as these ships can launch unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). MMEA director-general Admiral Datuk Zulkifili Abu Bakar said the UAVs can be launched on routine patrols to take photographic evidence of illegal trawling by foreign fishermen.

He noted that these foreign fishermen, who are mostly from Vietnam, tend to cut lose their trawling nets at the first sign of trouble. “As a result, they (illegal fishermen) tend to be acquitted by the courts as there is insufficient evidence against them. With these motherships, the UAVs can use their onboard cameras to take pictures (of illegal fishing activities) as evidence. “When the UAV encounters (illegal fishing activities in Malaysia’s Exclusive Economic Zone or EEZ), the mothership can launch six smaller boats to the scene.

“Even if they (illegal fishermen) cut the nets, we have already got the evidence (to win court cases against them),” he said. Zulkifili was speaking after a ceremony for the handing over of duties between outgoing MMEA Eastern Region commander First Admiral Datuk Mamu Said Alee and his successor First Admiral Zulkarnain Mohd Omar at the regional Region headquarters here today. He said having motherships with UAVs and the smaller vessels would enable the agency to patrol 100 nautical miles in every direction.

He said this was important in light of the fact that MMEA had caught 102 foreign fishing boats from Vietnam encroaching in Malaysian waters between January and this month alone. Zulkifili said having such motherships would boost MMEA’s holistic approach to tackling encroachment of the country’s EEZ by foreign fishermen as their activities cause huge losses to Malaysian fishermen, among others.

“For example, trawling by foreign fishing boats scrape the sea bottom and damage coral reefs, which are the natural habitats of fish and other marine life. “It was reported that the Fisheries Department has estimated between RM3 billion and RM6 billion in losses annually (from illegal fishing activities).

“However, when ecosystem damage is taken into account, the losses suffered by the nation would be larger and possibly beyond repair,” he said. In June, Zulkifili had said MMEA needs two vessels to act as motherships to augment security and surveillance of Malaysian waters.

He had said having motherships would greatly help MMEA in joint cooperation efforts with other enforcement agencies such as marine police and the Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) to safeguard Malaysian waters.

Recently, Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi had called on maritime enforcement agencies to protect the country’s EZZ from encroachment by foreign fishing vessels at all costs.

He said the encroachment by foreign vessels had caused the country to lose between RM3 billion and RM6 billion in revenue yearly.

–NSTP

Filed in: Nasional, Topik Pilihan

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