By Anthony Joseph
MIRI, Malaysia — Eighteen carcasses of various species of sea turtle were found among the catches on board of a vessel intercepted by Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) encroaching into Malaysian waters off here on Monday.
The director of operation cum divisional maritime enforcement chief Commander Syed Nor Adli Syed Ab Rahman yesterday disclosed that: “The vessel was intercepted around 11am on Oct 4 by the enforcement unit during their routine patrolling beat in a location about 9 nautical miles from Tanjung Batu in Miri.”
Onboard were a 44-year-old captain and 14 crews, aged 18 to 48, believed to be from Vietnam.
The vessel was anchored when it was stopped by a unit of four enforcement officers led by commanding officer Pandi Sampan.
“The captain and his crew resisted the officers from boarding the vessel when stopped. As the fishermen and officers had difficulties in communicating with each other, we had to use ‘sign language’ to make them understand,” said Nor Adli.
After inspection, the personnel discovered around ten tonnes of catches containing an assortment of fish and sea turtles in the storage compartment below the deck.
The captain and crew were also found to be without personal identification documents and work permit.
The C2 Class vessel was believed to be a chartered vessel and registered in the state based on its registration – SFC3667.
The vessel together with the fishermen was later escorted to the agency’s Vessel Detention Centre in Kampung Pulau Melayu here. The captain and the crew are now remanded for seven days until Oct 12 to facilitate investigation.
The catches were later auctioned off by the agency while the carcasses of sea turtles were still kept on board the vessel. The case is being investigated under Fisheries Act 1985.
“Although the vessel bears the state registration number and permit, investigations will be carried out involving other departments such as the Fisheries Department to verify both the permit and registration number. All we know is that it might be fake registration and permit,” he said.
Nor Adli believed that the sea turtles were killed using harpoons where the fishermen dive into the sea and hunt for them. Nine harpoons were found onboard the vessel together with diving suit and tanks.
Meanwhile, Nor Adli urged the fishing community and seamen to immediately call or report to the agency incidents such as piracy and accidents in the high seas.
Referring to a recent incident where a group of four machete-wielding pirates boarded a cargo vessel and robbed the captain and his crew of ten of valuables, Nor Adli said they received a report on the incident on Sept 27 although it happened on the night of Sept 26.
“We could act immediately if we receive the call. We have our enforcement and prevention units on stand-by 24 hours in the seas. They can go to the scene after being alerted by the base,” said Nor Adli, reminding the public to call the agency hotline number 085-418204.