KOTA KINABALU: The coast guards have seized four boats ferrying fishermen allegedly involved in fish bombing activities off Sabah’s east coast Semporna district.
The fishermen, however, managed to give the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) the slip during an operation dubbed Ops Pluto Timur at Tanjung Tabu-Tabu in the evening on Wednesday (Jan 3).
Semporna MMEA director Commander Amir Shubli said his men were conducting routine patrols in two vessels when they spotted the four boats floating in a shallow area.
The people onboard the boats were acting in a suspicious manner, he said.
“As soon as the team got near to them, the fishermen jumped into the water and swam to a nearby shore,” he said, in a statement on Thursday (Jan 4).
“Following a check, we found nearly 50kg of fish on the boats and bottles containing fertiliser which we believe were used as explosives to catch the fish,” he added.
Amir said they estimated the seized items, including the four boats, to be around RM20,000.
“The case is being investigated under Section 26 of the Fisheries Act 1985 for catching fish using explosives or poison among others,” he said.
He warned that the MMEA would not compromise with any individual found using explosives or harmful substances to catch marine life.
“Such actions are not only unlawful but could also endanger the lives of those in the tourism industry such as divers.
“In addition, such activities will bring about negative consequences to the ocean ecosystem,” Amir said.
He noted that the Semporna MMEA would beef up patrols while urging the public to report or channel any information on criminal elements or emergency incidents to 089-782619 or the Malaysian Emergency Response Services (MERS) 999 number.
There have been fatalities over the years due to fish bombing in Sabah including two Chinese tourists and a Malaysian divemaster in Semporna in July 2019.