LABUAN: A Vietnamese fishing boat with 10 men onboard was seized by the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency for trespassing into Malaysian waters, 100 nautical miles from Labuan.
After half hour in hot pursuit, the MMEA's patrol craft KM Pemanggil cornered the boat, and escorted it to the MMEA base midnight, Monday.
The Vietnamese were brought before the magistrate court, Tuesday, for remand order of seven days. According to their interpreter, they were trying to escape from a storm.
But MMEA Chief, Captain (Maritime) Wan Mat Wan Abdullah said this was unlikely as they were trying to flee upon seeing the patrol craft.
"They were caught red handed fishing. Found inside the boat were an assortment of freshly caught trevally, tuna, hammerjack, and food supplies adequate for a few days," said the maritime captain.
The total catch weighed no less than 1,000 kg and the boat confiscated were valued at RM500,000.
The fishermen were held in custody to facilitate investigation. If found guilty, the skipper could be fined up to RM1 million, while each of the crew not more than RM100,000.
They faced the charge of entering Malaysian territorial waters without permit issued by the Malaysian Fisheries Department, under Malaysian Fishery Act 1985 Section 19.
The MMEA was informed by the Labuan Seafood Industry of suspected foreign fishing boats, somewhere between Labuan and Layang-Layang atoll.
Fourteen officers and men on patrol craft KM Pemanggil were despatched to the location, leaving the Labuan base, Monday, at 5.00am.
The boat was sighted at 10.15am, but tried to get away as the patrol craft neared it.
MMEA successfully apprehended the boat with the fishermen at 10.45am and escorted it to Labuan.
It was believed that five or six other foreign fishing boats were around the area positioned as 06 degrees 11.74 minutes North latitude and longitude 114 degrees 24.89 minutes East.
This was about 85 nautical miles from Layang-Layang. The sea, here, with depth of 2,000 feet is a rich fishing ground.
This was the first incident of foreign fishing boat incursion under Labuan MMEA jurisdiction for the year, but its third since it started operation in 2006. (DE)