MMEA tracking Vietnamese fishing crew who escaped after their boats sank

KOTA KINABALU: The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) is tracking Vietnamese fishermen from two foreign boats which sank in Kudat waters.

The fishermen were believed to have escaped with the help of other foreign vessels.

According to the MMEA Kudat, it said they received a report at 11am on Friday (March 5) alerting them to two stranded foreign fishing boats at around two nautical miles southeast of Pulau Sibogor Laut, Pulau Banggi.

A patrol boat was deployed to the location but could not find any crew from either boat.

“According to the villagers nearby, the boats were stranded the night before.Upon inspection, both boats are believed to be Vietnamese fishing boats based on the shape, colour and the registration numbers.

“There is no physical leads about the fishing crew around the location and no sightings of foreign fishermen from nearby islands.“Based on the information, it is likely the skippers and fishing crew have been rescued by other foreign vessels. They may have fled to avoid arrest, ” it said in a statement.

The boats were believed to have sunk after hitting coral reefs that damaged the structure of both boats coupled with a high tide.

MMEA assets in the vicinity have been ordered to increase surveillance and patrolling to track down the fishing crew.

It said inspections would also be conducted on suspicious vessels.

The Kudat MMEA operation centre has also contacted Sabah Parks since the incident occurred within the Tun Mustapha Marine Park.

In addition, information was also forwarded to the Department of Environment for cleaning up works following an oil spill after the incident.

Based on monitoring and data analysis of previously captured crews, foreign fishing vessels especially from Vietnam would encroach Kudat waters in groups, hauling catch from the sea illegally at night and leaving before sunrise.