Its director Maritime Captain Muhammad Suffi Mohd Ramli said the boats were nabbed at 118 to 123 nautical miles from here, at about 3.30 pm to 4.30 pm by maritime vessel (KM) Langkawi and KM Gemia, under Op Iman.
“All the four boats were using local registration numbers to confuse the authorities. We believe a syndicate, which leases boat registration numbers to the Vietnamese, perpetrated by local fishermen, exists.
“Based on our intelligence, we found out that the licenses rented to the Vietnamese fishermen are worth RM200,000 each a year, this is an easy way for local fishermen to reap profit without carrying out fishing activities,” he said during a press conference at the Terengganu MMEA headquarters here, today.
Further investigations revealed that only four out of 47 crews including the skippers detained, had Vietnamese passports, and the boats did not have valid documents for fishing activities in Malaysian waters.
Muhammad Suffi said five tonnes of fertiliser fishes, 4.5 tonnes of mixed catches, 16,500 litres of diesel, four boats and fishing equipment estimated to be worth near RM5 million, were also seized.
The case is being investigated under Section 15(1)(a) of the Fisheries Act 1985 for fishing in the country’s territorial waters and the Immigration Act 1959/63, as the crews and skippers, aged 17 to 57, did not have valid documents.
“MMEA will investigate and strive to uncover this masquerading tactic of using the registration numbers of local fishing boats. If there are involvements by local fishermen or the boat registration number owners, the authority will haul them to court,” he said.
He said MMEA would not compromise with foreign fishermen who encroached into national territorial waters and harvest the marine resources.
“Patrolling and monitoring will continue to be enhanced from time to time to prevent activities that violate the maritime law,”he added.